Debt limit still at issue
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state lawmakers are now dealing with a new rift that threatens to stall the end of the special session.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has called an afternoon meeting with House and Senate leaders to figure out whether they can agree how to handle the state's debt limit.
The Senate has wanted a constitutional amendment that would eventually reduce the state's usage of bonds from 9 percent to 7 percent of state revenues. But Democratic Rep. Hans Dunshee says his colleagues are unwilling to even support a plan to create a suggested debt limit of 8 percent.
Dunshee says the curbs would lead to cuts for a variety of construction projects, including schools. He says that could force local governments to pay an increased share.
The special session ends Wednesday.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington lawmakers reached a tentative agreement Monday on how to close the state's $5 billion budget shortfall, finding the elusive compromise after weeks of talks.
Budget negotiators struck the pact in a meeting Monday morning. They declined to discuss specifics of the spending plan and will spend the day compiling the details before presenting it to their respective colleagues and the public on Tuesday.
"We've got a deal," said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, as lawmakers from both parties and chambers emerged from a conference room. Gov. Chris Gregoire has been involved in the negotiations for days. Murray said he expects they will be able to pass the budget by Wednesday.
The Legislature wasn't able to reach a deal on the spending plan when its regular session ended a month ago, leading the Democratic governor to call them back for 30 days of overtime. Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli, of Ridgefield, said he was pleased that all sides worked together in the negotiations.
"I'm sure there are some things where people felt like they won and other things where they felt like they were marginalized," Zarelli said. "Everybody's going to have their pluses and their minuses."
The budget agreement comes just hours after leaders announced a crucial deal on how to overhaul the state's workers' compensation system. There's still one hurdle left for lawmakers to clear: They are still negotiating a deal that would lower the state's debt limit.
Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said the budget came together in a series of meetings that went late into the night. It was a daunting task, as all sides tried to cut billions in spending without causing too much damage, he said.
"We had a couple of moments where things were a little testy," Hunter said.
Of all the parties involved, House Republicans emerged as least supportive of the plan. House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said many of his members were concerned by some of the cuts to school spending — although he didn't offer specifics on the compromise.
"I don't see them getting a lot of votes on it," DeBolt said. But House Republicans did have input on the plan and have agreed not to stand in the way of a vote, he said.