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Back to the budget battle in Olympia

House Democrats and Senate Republicans have each come up with a two year spending plan, but the approaches are completely different. (Photo: file)

State lawmakers return to the capitol Monday for a special session that will focus largely on the budget, and they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Budget writers in the House and Senate have each come up with a two-year plan for state spending, but their plans look nothing alike.

Jason Mercier with the Washington State Policy Center says the House version focuses too much on taxes and spending, despite campaign promises from the governor and lawmakers that they would focus on creating jobs.

“When we got to crunch time on the budget and we started to see tax packages being proposed in the billion-dollar-plus range, we weren’t seeing that connection to what the impact on the economy would be anymore,” says Mercier. “We wanted to do some economic modeling to show what could be the impact.”

The Policy Center used a fiscal model created by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University.

According to that formula, the plan would create 5,236 public sector jobs, but would eliminate 9,800 jobs in the private sector. Overall, there would be a net loss of 4,564 jobs in the next two years.

Mercier says if Democrats feel strongly about needing additional revenue, they should take it to the voters with a referendum.

“That would be preferable to them trying to ram something through in Olympia that’s counter to the promises made,” says Mercier.

Remy Trupin, Executive Director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, says Republicans need to take a longer-term view of what will grow the state economy.

“When you have targeted tax increases and invest that revenue in things that we know grow the economy, then on balance it’s better,” says Trupin.

Over the course of the recession, state agencies have already had their budgets slashed. Trupin says the Senate budget proposal assumes $200 million in additional savings through department efficiencies that are unrealistic.

“Without having anything on the bone left to cut, they would immediately be back in the hole,” says Trupin.

How will the House and Senate leaders, Republicans and Democrats, find common ground?

Trupin says they’ll have to go back to the beginning.

“There is no equivalency. They’re not even at the same starting point. The Senate budget not only has a cut approach, it starts from a totally faulty fiscal basis. It has magical realism all over the place,” says Trupin.

Despite the difficulty ahead, the governor is also asking lawmakers to work on more than just the budget. He also wants them to finish up a transportation package and strengthen the state’s DUI laws during the next 30 days.

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