Inslee pushes, prods lawmakers in final days of session

OLYMPIA -- Governor Jay Inslee said Wednesday he is working hard to get a budget deal before the Legislature adjourns Sunday, but admited a special session is likely in order to get the job done.

Inslee also detailed a list of non-budget items he wants legislators to approve this year, including some controversial things that never made it out of committee this session.

“We have more responsibility to the people of the state than just the budget,” Inslee said.

The governor said he still wants action on several key issues including transportation, helping immigrants, cracking down on drunk driving and gun violence.  Inslee implied he would call lawmakers back to town if there wasn’t action by Sunday.

“I don’t think the legislature or governor should walk away from the responsibility to deal with these known challenges,” he said.  “So far we haven’t accomplished that.”

But it’s the budget that remains the biggest sticking point to leaving on time.

“People have been going down multiple tracks, and now those tracks have got to come together,” Inslee said.

The governor and house Democrats continue to push for more taxes – upwards of $1 billion dollars -- to solve the state’s fiscal problems, while the Senate has voted to hold the line on any new revenue.

“It’s different than in the past,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the Senate’s chief budget writer.

“You know, two budgets that are this far apart” – his hands spread wide – “as opposed to in the past where the budgets were maybe this far apart,” Hill said with his hands much closer together.

Republicans are also frustrated that that Inslee has been mostly absent from budget negotiations.

“If he chooses not to help us get to a balanced budget, that’s his choice,” said Sen. Linda Parlette, R-Wenatchee. “Our former governor was very helpful in doing that.”

Also in Olympia Wednesday, Tim Eyman filed yet another initiative. The new initiative would push the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds super-majority to raise taxes.

“Voters have sent this message clearly over the last 20 years,” Eyman said. “They have earned the right for permanent protection.”

If legislators fail to act, the initiative states that any tax increase lawmakers did approved would have to expire after one year. While this new Eyman initiative won’t affect this session, his presence in Olympia today was a reminder about what voters think of tax increases as lawmakers work to come up with a budget deal.