Schoesler calls for May 15 finish to special session

OLYMPIA…Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler today repeated the call to lawmakers in Olympia to end their special session by May 15. Washington lawmakers are scheduled to begin an overtime session Wednesday, but it could run 30 days – or even longer.

Schoesler added that lawmakers should see a mid-May deadline for school districts to plan their budgets as reason to finish by May 15.

“Now that Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to continue budget negotiations, lawmakers need to be responsive to a critical May 15 deadline for the state’s school districts,” Schoesler said.

“Delay is bad enough. School districts face a budget-planning deadline of May 15, and without a specific appropriation, they must send out pink slips to teachers and other employees. They also can’t start hiring the new teachers both chambers have agreed to fund. We are dramatically increasing education funding this year, and these delays put schools, teachers and important programs in limbo.”

Schoesler observed that members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus are on the job Monday in Olympia even though the Legislature is not in session. “Our committee chairs are planning work sessions and committee hearings to keep momentum going with the goal of finishing budget negotiations before the May 15 deadline,” Schoesler said.

Under the constitution, special sessions can last as long as 30 days. But if they fail to finish their work in the allotted time, they could be forced to remain longer. If lawmakers fail to pass a budget by July 1, inaction will force a shutdown of state government.

Schoesler noted that the Senate has passed all the bills necessary to implement a new state operating budget. The Senate proposal does not raise taxes. The House, under control of the House Democratic Caucus, has proposed a budget that would require a $1.5 billion tax increase. But the House has balked at passing a bill to raise taxes, leaving their proposal unbalanced and making it impossible for budget negotiators for both sides to begin talks from an even position.

The situation has been complicated by Gov. Inslee’s declaration that he will not sign a budget that does not contain a major tax increase. “Governor Inslee has given the Legislature an ultimatum to pass the largest tax increase in state history or we don’t get a budget deal,” said Schoesler, “This threat of a D.C.-style government shutdown doesn’t belong in this Washington.”

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