OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee won’t call a special session to address state budget concerns as the state must wait to see how the federal government helps states deal with the economic fallout of covid-19.
Waiting on the U.S. Congress was just one of the reasons Inslee said a special session wasn’t required to address the $8.8 billion state operating budget shortfall. Pacific County’s legislators are split on whether they agree.
During a news conference on Thursday, July 16, Inslee said his spending vetos, employee furloughs and hiring freezes have stabilized the budget enough to allow the legislature to make it to the regular session in January.
A session right now would achieve little, Inslee said. After speaking with state legislative leaders, it was clear to him that there was no consensus on how to pass a budget that had majority support in both chambers, Inslee said.
Inslee looks forward to working with legislators in January, he said.
When asked if having the Legislature back in session would help to have local issues better represented on the state level, Inslee said no.
“There is nothing special about a special session that already doesn’t exist,” Inslee said.
Legislators, mayors, county commissioners and executives can call the governor at anytime, Inslee said. No local leaders expressed concern about the beaches being open prior to the holiday, his office added after the news conference.
“We have open communication without the necessity of a special session,” Inslee said.
State Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, agreed a special session wasn’t needed for the time being. If one were to be held, it wouldn’t be for several months, he said. Aside from waiting to see what the federal government does in terms of relief funding for states, the technical issues presented by gathering the legislature still need to be solved, Takko said.
“I don’t think you can really have a legislative session on Zoom,” Takko said.
With the vetoes made by the governor, the state can likely get by until the regular session, Takko said.
Proponents of a special session include state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen. Inslee’s tools for managing the budget “are a crude approach,” Walsh said, in a Facebook post on Tuesday, July 21. What the governor suggested as a way to deal with budget shortfalls are “across-the-board cuts,” Walsh said.
“The better approach is for the legislature to come together and negotiate what budget writers call “programmatic” cuts — focused on specific projects and programs within state agency budgets,” Walsh said.