State legislators play blame game over budget impasse

OLYMPIA -- State lawmakers have less than two weeks to approve a two-year state budget before the regular legislative session ends.

On Thursday, leaders from both parties traded sharps words over the latest budget impasse that threatens to take legislators into a special session.

State Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the GOP’s chief budget writer, accused the Democrats of purposely dragging things out.

“When you refuse to pass your $1.5 billion in taxes, it seems like a delaying tactic to me,” Hill said.  “There is a belief that when you shut down government, Republicans will take the blame.”

Democrats were quick to respond.

“It’s ridiculous to think that we’re not eager about getting done on time,” said Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, the House majority leader.

He blames the GOP for the delay.

“They need to unlock the door,” said Sullivan.  “They said they were willing to negotiate, then they locked the door.  We’re willing to come in again at any time.”

The Democratic-led House and the Republican-controlled Senate are $1.5 billion apart.  They each add over $1 billion in new money to schools to meet the Washington Supreme Court mandate to fully fund education.  But the approaches are very different.

Democrats are calling for a new capital gains tax on the wealthiest Washingtonians.  Republicans argue the state can meet all its obligations, including to public schools, within existing revenue.

With just 10 days to come together, most people now expect that lawmakers will indeed be heading into special session.

The state’s fiscal year ends on June 30, so if they still have a few months to forge a deal before the government would have to be shut down.