OLYMPIA — Washington lawmakers may not complete their work on time — again. This time, the stakes are getting higher.
With just a few days before the end of the special session, budget negotiators on Friday still lacked a final solution or a pathway to reach one. Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said he was prepared to go into another special legislative session to ensure that the Legislature preserves the Senate goal of not raising taxes.
"We should stick to our guns and hold out for our citizens and hold out for the Senate budget," Benton said. "I hope all if you are prepared to do that."
The Legislature is trending closer to crucial financial deadlines, the most important being the end of the current budget cycle on June 30. State officials are also preparing to send out millions of dollars in refund checks because of a court ruling on the estate tax — even though lawmakers have been considering a patch to keep that money.
Lawmakers blew past their first deadline in April, forcing Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session to complete the work. There's been little progress in the weeks since.
The House and Senate have been locked in fruitless budget negotiations, with a Republican-dominated majority in the Senate opposing any tax changes. House Democrats have scaled back their tax plans but are still seeking some new revenue, arguing that the money is needed in order to properly fund education — partly in response to a state Supreme Court ruling.
Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, bemoaned that there has been little action taken in the overtime session. He warned that the state's economy, as well as services that people rely on, were being put in jeopardy.
"It is time to act before we do serious damage to the people of this state," Murray said.
The special session ends Tuesday. Inslee has said another special session would start Wednesday if needed.