Nelson blames Senate Republicans for special session

Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island) issued a statement Friday blaming Republicans in the Legislature for an 11th-hour budget stalemate that she said "will cost the people of the state of Washington both money and time."

The 60-day session came to an end Thursday night without a signed budget, after Senate Republicans seized control of the budget process last week and passed a version far different from the one Democrats — which control both the House and the Senate — had teed up for passage. Senate Republicans were able to get their surprise spending plan passed after three conservative Democrats crossed party lines and voted for the GOP version. House Democrats, meanwhile, passed a Democratic version on Thursday.

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she'll call lawmakers back to Olympia for a 30-day special session on Monday, a situation, Nelson said, that the Republicans in the Senate "knowingly" forced upon the Legislature.

“We face a special session to address Republican demands to cut education and, thus, jeopardize our children’s future," Nelson added in her statement.

Several issues separate the two budgets. The House version contains no cuts to K-12 or higher education and preserves a program called Disability Lifeline, which provides welfare and health care to unemployable adults not covered by Social Security. The Senate budget cuts $74 million from K-12 and higher education funding and eliminates Disability Lifeline.

Nelson said the Republicans are refusing to compromise, despite concessions made by Democrats.

“Not only have the Republicans refused to seek compromise since last Saturday, they have declined to seriously negotiate with Senate Democrats, the House or the governor to find middle ground on the budget. Progress will require a willingness to move toward the middle," she said.

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, however, said the Democrats are refusing to negotiate, forcing the need for a special session.

“Since the Senate passed its budget almost a week ago, my colleagues and I have been reaching out to our Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives about working together on a final budget solution," he said in a statement issued Friday. "They have not yet responded, so we will need a special session to finish that work."


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