Democrats have pulled back from negotiations over a statewide transportation package because talks over the state operating budget are not going well, Rep. Judy Clibborn said.
OLYMPIA — House Democrats have pulled back from negotiations over a statewide transportation package because talks over the state operating budget aren’t going well, according to Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island.
Clibborn and Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima — the lead transportation negotiators for their parties — both said that transportation-package talks have gone well.
But, Clibborn said, “the general- fund negotiations were not going well,” and Democratic House leaders advised her to halt transportation talks for now.
The development comes two weeks before the July 1 deadline for a 2015-17 state operating budget. If the state doesn’t have a budget by then, parts of the government will shut down.
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Staff members from the office of Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Office of Financial Management are scheduled to hold a news briefing Thursday morning to talk about the state’s contingency planning for a possible shutdown.
Lawmakers are two-thirds through a second special legislative session without an agreement on the state operating budget.
Legislators are trying to write a budget that complies with court orders to improve K-12 education funding, better fund mental-health and other social-service programs and provide cost-of-living raises for state employees and teachers.
Democrats have argued that some new revenue is necessary to fund such needs; Republicans have disagreed, saying that projected revenue from existing taxes should be enough to pay for government.
House Democrats say they continue to support a capital-gains tax as the best way raise new revenue.
“That said, it has never been the only option,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said in a statement Wednesday. “ … if the Senate Republicans don’t like a capital-gains solution they need to suggest an alternative to support a sustainable operating budget.”
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said Wednesday that there hasn’t been much progress in the budget talks.
“I don’t think anyone can at this stage be anything other than incredibly somber and concerned and deeply troubled by the direction that the discussions are going,” Carlyle said.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have worked on proposals for a roughly $15 billion transportation package funded by an 11.7-cent increase in the gas tax and hikes in some fees.
Those proposals would fund road projects such as the west side of the new Highway 520 bridge, the North Spokane Corridor freeway, the widening of Interstate 405, an extension of the Interstate 90 rebuild over Snoqualmie Pass, and the Highway 167 project in South King and North Pierce counties.
The proposals also fund rail and transit projects, pedestrian walkways and bike paths.
Lawmakers failed in 2014 to reach an agreement on a package.
King said he couldn’t speak to details on budget talks.
But, “I just would assume that if they get close to an agreement on an operating budget, they’ll let us continue,” he said.