Work at special session in Olympia is mostly behind the scene

At noon Monday the gavel sounded on the floor of the House of Representatives in Olympia. Just two lawmakers were present. Most of the rest stayed, waiting for budget writers to come up with a deal. 

Indeed, most of Monday's action was behind closed doors.  The Governor conducted meetings with legislative leaders, trying to break the recent impasse. 

“The governor is doing what the governor does best,” said Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla).  “She’s trying to get us back together again.  It was a very trying week last week.  There was a lot of hostility.  We’re now talking about what we could potentially could do.”

The test for the Governor:  Bring the two sides together on  two big sticking points. 

House Democrats want to push a big $330 million payment to schools into next year’s budget. 

“We’re just not going to kick the can forward,” said Hewitt, who opposes the plan.  “I don’t want to come back here next year, I don’t want to come back in 2013 and have a $2 billion deficit again.”

Senate Republicans, with the support of three moderate Democrats, would rather cut $200 million in programs and skip a $130 million payment to the state’s pension system.

“We have a legal, constitutional requirement to pay the benefits that were promised to people,” said Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), who opposes that plan.  “Unlike General Motors or something, we can’t go bankrupt and get out of it.”

The special session will last 30 days, unless lawmakers reach a deal early.

Estimates are that the special session will cost $10,000 per day.