OLYMPIA -- Budget negotiations have stalled, but lawmakers have a plan to get negotiations started if there's a special session, according to a Tri-City lawmaker.
Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, whose district includes Walla Walla, Pasco and part of Kennewick, met Wednesday with the governor and other party leaders in the House and Senate to discuss the next step for budget negotiations.
"The discussion was all based around how we can find a path out of here. Are there give-and-takes on each side that we can come to a resolution on? No firm resolution, I don't believe, came out of that room," he said in a press conference after the meeting.
Instead, party leaders emerged with a "get-started path," Hewitt said.
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But the regular session ends Thursday, and any bill not passed by both the House and Senate will return to their house of origin in the special session, where lawmakers will have to vote again on the bills.
If a special session is scheduled, Republican Sen. Joseph Zarelli's Senate budget, which passed 25-24 out of the Senate, still will have the support of his party and three Democrats who crossed the aisle, Hewitt said.
But Senate Republicans and House Democrats have not held conversations about the House supporting the Senate budget, Zarelli said.
Instead, Democrats have proposed making changes to their own budget proposals to gain Republican support.
For example, Democrats have proposed making delayed payments to government agencies other than K-12 education, which Republicans have opposed, Zarelli said.
Any delayed payment accomplishes the same thing, Zarelli said, which is spending more money than the state has.
Given the state's budget situation and the economy, lawmakers cannot fund everything -- some cuts have to be made, he said.
Republicans are willing to discuss increasing taxes and revenue so the state has more resources, Hewitt said, but not without seeing Democrats make responsible cuts.
Neither Hewitt nor Zarelli said where they are asking Democrats to make cuts, but the Republican choice of cuts can be found in the Senate budget.
The budget would cut $202 million dollars to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and $43 million to K-12 programs, such as Running Start and bonuses given to national board certified teachers, according to a bill summary from partisan staff on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
The budget saves $133 million through state pension plan reform and transfers $70 million dollars liquor taxes and profits from local funds to the state general fund.
The budget does not delay the payment of $330 million to K-12 schools to the next fiscal year.
Hewitt said he suggested getting budget writers together from both parties to work out their differences, and party-politics should not slow things down.
"(Politics) should be secondary to what we're trying to do here. This is a serious problem and we have got to get it resolved," he said.
But tensions between lawmakers are apparent, he said, through the lack of conversation -- even eye contact -- between members of opposite parties.
Hewitt said the weekend should give lawmakers time to cool down, see their families and begin serious budget conversations when they return for the special session.
The governor will decide when the special session begins, but Hewitt said he requested it begin Monday or Tuesday.
-- Eric Francavilla, a Herald intern from Washington State University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.