With deadlock in Olympia, Inslee calls special session

With Washington lawmakers deadlocked over a new budget and wrestling over K-12 school funding, Gov. Jay Inslee Friday called a special session so they could continue their work.

Joseph O’Sullivan

OLYMPIA — They had two big jobs. And they didn’t get them done on time.

Gov. Jay Inslee Friday called a special legislative session to begin Monday so Washington lawmakers could continue their work on education funding and a new operating budget.

With the state’s 105-day regular session winding down, lawmakers are quietly negotiating a resolution on K-12 school funding to resolve the state Supreme Court’s McCleary order.

Meanwhile, legislators aren’t even bothering to negotiate over a 2017-19 state operating budget.

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The operating budget — which funds schools, prisons, parks and social services, among other things — is needed by July 1 or the state government shuts down.

Lawmakers are struggling to bridge deep divisions over education policy.

They also disagree on how much money is needed to fund schools and the budget — and where that money should come from.

Democratic House lawmakers and Inslee have called for raising revenue through a series of new and increased taxes to pay for schools and other government programs.

Those proposals include a new tax on capital gains, and restructuring the state’s business-and-occupation taxes.

Senate Republicans have argued that much of that can be done with existing revenue — and released a proposed budget that reflects that position.

Republicans have also proposed replacing local school levies with a uniform, statewide property tax to fund schools. That proposal would raise taxes in “property rich” school districts like Seattle and Bellevue, while reducing them in “property poor” districts.

The regular session is officially scheduled to end Sunday, though lawmakers are expected to wrap up their work Friday.

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