Special session? State lawmakers head into final days

Special session? State lawmakers head into final days
Washington Gov.-elect Jay Inslee says a special session of the Legislature might be necessary to reach agreement on a budget bill and other important legislation.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - As lawmakers head into the final days of the 105-day regular legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged Wednesday that the clock might run out before a budget deal is struck and agreement is reached on other bills he says are still in play.

"There is much work to be done," he told reporters during a news conference in his conference room, comparing the odds to a lucky poker hand. "I think we'd have to draw to an inside straight to get this done by Sunday night."

If lawmakers don't finish by Sunday, Inslee said there wasn't yet a decision on when they might be called back for a special legislative session.

Lawmakers are tasked with patching a projected budget deficit of more than $1.2 billion for the next two-year budget, not counting additional money needed for a court-ordered requirement that they increase funding to basic education.

Inslee said that before lawmakers go home, he wants them to pass measures to toughen the state's impaired driving laws, pass a transportation package and to keep other measures in the mix, including gun control bills and a bill to make young immigrants living in the country without legal permission eligible for college financial aid.

"There are many things that need to be resolved, not just one thing," he said.

Lawmakers are tasked with patching a projected budget deficit of more than $1.2 billion for the next two-year budget, not counting additional money needed for a court-ordered requirement that they increase funding to basic education.

Inslee stressed that "this is not just a budgetary exercise."

"We have policy issues that are very much in question," he said.

The House and Senate are hundreds of millions of dollars apart on tax revenue in their competing proposals, with the Democratic-controlled House pursuing a variety of tax changes, including the extension of business taxes that would raise $620 million over the next two years. The Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats, has approved a budget without those tax changes, and the two sides are now involved in final budget negotiations.

Considering all of the bills he says are still at play, Inslee said that extra time of special session could help.

"We're trying to reach an amalgam, an agreement of people with widely diverse views and communities, and time does help in some degree," he said. "I'm going to try to compress that to the extent humanly possible."

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said lawmakers were all committed to doing what they can to get done on time, and he believes there is a pathway to complete work by Sunday.

"This place is amazing in the miracles that can transpire when everybody gets together," Tom said.

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AP Writer Mike Baker contributed to this report.