Washington budget gap as wide as ever

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OLYMPIA (AP) — Washington state’s political leaders resigned themselves Monday to another special session, as budget negotiators searched for a way to bridge the wide gap between their positions.

With just one day before the end of a 30-day overtime session, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the House and Senate proposals remained far apart. He recalled that Gov. Jay Inslee had said at the end of the regular session more than a month ago that both sides were “light years apart.”

“I would say we’re still somewhere out in space,” Sullivan said.

Inslee is expected to call another special session starting Wednesday to keep lawmakers working. Inslee spokesman David Postman said he didn’t expect a deal on the budget within the next few days, in part due to Senate efforts to make policy changes along with balancing the budget.

It’s not clear how negotiators are going to find agreement before the end of June, when the current budget cycle ends. Senate leaders have insisted on the passage of some policy bills and opposed new tax increases, which Democrats and Inslee have pressed for.

The House voted Monday to approve a temporary capital budget to ensure that crews could work on previously approved infrastructure projects even in a government shutdown. House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt voted for the measure but expressed concern about the tone of such an effort.

“We’re setting the table for failure in Washington state today,” DeBolt said. “We’re telling everybody we’re going to fail in advance.”

Lawmakers have been working on a budget solution since the beginning of the year, looking to mend a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall for the two-year cycle that ends in the middle of 2015. They’ve also been looking to add another $1 billion to the state’s education system in response to an order from the state Supreme Court.

The Senate has proposed a variety of policy shifts and voted Sunday to advance three of them — one to expand the use of settlements in the state workers’ compensation system, one to give principals the power to reject the placement of specific teachers in their schools and another that would limit the growth of non-education spending in future budgets.

Democrats control the state House while Republicans largely control the state Senate with the help of two conservative Democrats.

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