End of special session nears as lawmakers reach budget deal

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
  • Monday, March 28, 2016 9:04pm
  • Local News

OLYMPIA — Legislative leaders announced a budget deal Monday, clearing the way for an end to special session and unprecedented override of governor vetoes.

The agreement, which comes in the third week of special session, will boost funding for programs serving mentally ill, homeless and foster children, and use reserves to cover the tab for last year’s record-setting wildfires.

The final deal does not contain any new taxes or count on proceeds from taxation of broadcast firms, as Senate Republicans proposed earlier this month, lawmakers said.

And while it does not increase starting pay for new teachers or provide experienced instructors with an across-the-board pay hike as House Democrats sought, there is reportedly money to tackle a looming teacher shortage.

Leaders in the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-led Senate said details will be released Tuesday morning and predicted final passage by the evening.

“It took a little longer than I had hoped, but this budget was worth the wait,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, chairman of the House budget committee. “It’s not everything we wanted, of course, but that’s the reality of a divided government. The only path forward is through compromise and that’s what we’ve done with this budget agreement.”

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said the supplemental budget builds on the two-year spending plan approved last year by providing money for “significant improvements in mental health treatment and care for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, said she’ll oppose the agreement because it does not increase starting pay for new teachers or provide experienced instructors with an across-the-board pay hike.

“If you want to recruit and retain quality teachers in our schools, you have to pay them,” she said.

The supplemental budget also does not set aside money for local school districts to deal with the potential loss of local levy dollars, she said.

“It was a punt,” she said.

The Senate on Monday also began mopping up a historic spillage of ink from Gov. Jay Inslee’s red veto pen earlier this month.

Inslee vetoed 27 bills on March 10 when lawmakers failed to adopt a supplemental operating budget in regular session. It was the largest batch of vetoes issued by a governor in a single sitting. At that time, Inslee said he hoped it would spur the two chambers to quickly settle their differences.

After learning of lawmakers agreeing to a deal, Inslee all but invited them to override his vetoes.

“This information gives me the confidence I need to begin signing bills and clears the way for legislators to reconsider the bills I vetoed as a result of the lack of a budget agreement before the end of the regular session,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. “As I said previously, I have no objection to seeing these bills become law once a budget agreement is reached.”

So the Senate methodically voted to revive all 27 bills. The House is expected to follow suit when its members are in Olympia on Tuesday.

Overriding vetoes requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. It doesn’t happen very often.

Lawmakers last tried in 2003 and failed. The Senate voted 49-0 to revive a bill related to the membership of the Professional Educator Standards Board that Gov. Gary Locke vetoed. But the House did not vote, so the veto stayed in place.

The last successful override occurred in 1998. Locke vetoed a bill upholding Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act barring same-sex marriages and lawmakers voted narrowly to override it.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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