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No budget deal on final day of special session; second special session starts Friday

by caprecord

On the final day of the first 30-day special session, Senate Republicans publicly released their latest budget offer, which they say addresses several concerns raised by Democrats.

Democrats, meanwhile, say they will release their budget counteroffer on Monday.

The latest GOP budget proposal increases spending on higher education, state parks, drought relief and wages for caregivers in assisted living facilities. It adds $66 million to pay for collectively bargained state employee pay raises, contingent on a bill requiring contract negotiations to be open to the public.

Republicans also back away from a plan to move marijuana money into the general fund, instead keeping it in a dedicated account and distributing funds to cities and counties.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said Thursday the state is on track to collect nearly $500 million more in revenue than forecasted at the start of session for the two-year budget cycle.

“We believe that is a significant amount of money,” he said. “Enough money to get out of town and finish a budget.”

Republicans maintain the state does not need to raise taxes to meet budget and education spending obligations. Hill said the budget offer demonstrates that his side is “showing movement and showing compromise.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted the GOP budget bill out of committee on Thursday.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said on Thursday the Republican budget offer falls $50 million short on mental health funding for critical programs and issues.

Democrats are calling for $115 million more in funding for early learning, Chopp said, and they want to fund teacher cost-of-living pay raises at the same level as state workers.

“It’s a cost of about $154 million to provide teachers with the same COLA we’re providing state employees, and I think that’s the fair thing to do,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan.

Democrats plan to release their latest budget offer on Monday, followed by a public hearing on Tuesday. “We are working toward a common-sense middle ground on the operating budget,” Chopp said.

TVW taped the Republican and Democratic media availabilities on Thursday — videos will be posted online here.

With no budget deal in place at the end of the first special session, Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday called a second special session to begin on Friday at 9 a.m.

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