Special session fails to shock Zarelli, Moeller

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Disappointed, not surprised.

That was the reaction of two Clark County legislators late Wednesday to news that the 2010 Legislature will go into overtime with a special session to complete work on state budget and tax packages.

“The House and Senate are so far apart in their budget and tax packages,” said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield. “You’d think with one party in control, they would all be on the same sheet of music. Taxpayers might have to foot the bill for a special session that I believe should not be happening.”

Zarelli, ranking Republican on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he and other members of the minority party have been offering ideas to Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democratic leaders since November about how to balance the budget without imposing new taxes.

To underscore his annoyance, Zarelli promptly introduced a bill that would deny lawmakers the $90 per day payments they automatically get during a special session unless that special session begins at least 30 days after the end of a regular session.

Each day of a special session costs Washington taxpayers nearly $20,000, he said. “Only government would force the people to pay for ‘overtime’ while it figures out how much more to tax them,” he quipped in a statement.

Ten other Republicans quickly signed on to the bill.

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said reaching agreement on seeking new sources of revenue has been a sticking point for the majority party. The House passed its revenue package early Tuesday morning over strong opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

“Without the revenue package, we probably would have been out of here on time,” Moeller said. Agreeing on what new taxes to impose and which tax exemptions to repeal proved contentious, he said.

Moeller said he thinks the Legislature could finish its work quickly if it keeps its focus narrow.

Then again, he said, “I think we need a break, at least a day or two, and then come back and get back at it. I think the people expect us to get the job done and not take until July to do it.”

Moeller serves as deputy speaker pro tempore of the House and frequently presides over floor sessions. He admits he could use a time out.

“I haven’t been home in two weeks,” he said.