A special session to deal with a state budget deficit will begin at noon Monday.
Gov. Chris Gregoire made the announcement late Thursday, a few minutes before tired and frustrated lawmakers concluded their 2012 session.
She said she wanted legislators to spend a couple days out of Olympia to rest and regenerate so they can “totally focus” on the unfinished task. She hoped they could get much of the heavy lifting done in the first week of what could be a 30-day session.
“The first thing is they need to get away from each other,” she said. “They need to get away from me.”
When they return, the list of issues on which they will deal is a lengthy one.
Foremost is reaching agreement on a supplemental operating budget that blots out about $500 million in red ink and establishes an ample reserve. And there will be a number of bills related to the budget.
She also wants them to adopt a construction budget, consider setting limits on the state debt, find a way to provide funds for a student achievement program and provide cities and counties more ways to raise money for transportation and transit.
Gregoire said she’ll meet Monday with Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate to work on clearing away the big stumbling blocks – the Democrats’ desire to delay a school apportionment payment versus Republicans’ preference to skip a pension payment.
At the same time, she’d like negotiations to begin between authors of the two budgets in play — one drafted by the Democrats in the House and the other by Republicans in the Senate.
That didn’t happen in the final week of the session as House Democrats refused to work with the GOP. Gregoire said she expects that to change.
“They don’t have a choice,” she said.
Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the architect of the budget passed by the Senate, said he’s looking for a change of attitude.
“If the House majority had worked with our coalition at all this week toward a compromise, there might have been a vote in the Senate tonight,” he said in a prepared statement. “Political gamesmanship won’t produce the sustainable budget our state needs, and I hope the upcoming special session is free of it.”
Lawmakers left Olympia after a 60-day session highlighted by gay and lesbian couples winning the legal right to marry and minority Republicans seizing control of the Senate long enough to approve a budget they wrote rather than one drawn up by majority Democrats.
In addition, lawmakers enacted new rules for evaluating public school teachers and principals and increased a number of fees on drivers to ensure service on state ferries isn’t cut.
But the 147 legislators arrived in January knowing they needed to rebalance the budget and they went home without having done the job,
Starting Monday they’ll get another chance.