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Legislature heads toward special session | Gov. seeks consensus on state budget

With state legislators unable to meet their March 8 deadline to pass a budget within the allotted time frame, Gov. Christine Gregoire has already made clear that a special session will convene on March 12 — as Democrats and Republicans wrangle over whose budget will get passed.

Gregoire said the inability to create a consensus on the budget is disappointing. The governor said she was happy with some of the progress made in the initial session.

"(The) lack of a balanced budget shouldn't shroud the incredible accomplishments achieved during this short legislative session. Washington state became the seventh in the nation to pass a marriage equality bill. We made great strides in education reform, and we took action to improve our state's competitiveness in the global aerospace industry," Gregoire said.

The marriage equality bill was a priority at the beginning of the session. However, it appears the state will be headed toward a showdown with voters on the issue in November. Gregoire also recently signed a new teacher evaluation bill that allows for districts to place teachers, tenured or not, on probation according to their students' performance.

It appeared things would move along smoothly with the budget. The Democrat majority in both the House and Senate put forth a budget that would save education funding, but according to critics, played accounting tricks with other funding to schools.

In something of a legislative coup, three Senate Democrats briefly defected to the GOP on March 2, allowing the Senate Republicans to get their budget approved. In the GOP budget, education funding to both K-12 and higher education was drastically reduced, but allowed for greater savings and did not pull the accounting "trick" present in the Democrats' budget.

"Disagreement still remains over how to close our state's budget shortfall after three years of ongoing cuts. Knowing this would be a challenge, I put forth a budget in November and called for the Legislature to come back early to begin what would be a large task," Gregoire said. "They still have not completed the job, and as a result, I will ask the Legislature to reconvene (March 12) at 12 p.m. to finish the job they came here to do."

The governor said she's ready to assist in whatever capacity available to get lawmakers in Olympia to reach a consensus on the state's budget.

"I have been actively proposing ideas, convening meetings, and bringing leadership together to assure that the job is done as quickly as possible. Knowing the scope of this challenge, I continue to stand by ready to help and ask the Legislature not to rest until it finishes its job."

Special sessions are nothing new to the Legislature. Both 2010 and 2011 required two additional meetings of lawmakers to get things settled. In 2001 and 2003, three additional sessions were required of the state Legislature to get the state's business in order.

SPECIAL SESSIONS: 1980-2011

WA Legislature

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