Washington’s special legislative session kicked off Tuesday with senators quickly sending one of the most contentious measures of the regular session back to the House.
The Senate passed a constitutional amendment that would limit the state’s debt, a measure that has delayed passage of the $3 billion construction budget. House lawmakers gathered for meetings, but most will head home while negotiators try to hammer out agreements with the Senate.
The regular session adjourned Friday without a final state budget proposal. Lawmakers are tasked with closing a projected deficit of about $5.3 billion in the next two-year budget.
A Senate budget proposal slashes $4.8 billion in spending. The House’s bid cuts costs by $4.4 billion.
Sticking points in negotiations include a gap of about $300 million between the House and Senate budgets.
The Senate sent back to the House a constitutional amendment that would shrink the state’s debt limit from 9 percent of state revenue to 7 percent over the next two years. It would smooth out the state’s investment in construction projects by basing that 7 percent calculation on a 10-year rolling average of state revenue, rather than its current three-year rolling average.
Supporters say that lowering debt will free money in the operating budget that could be used elsewhere. Senators say that they won’t advance the state’s $3 billion construction budget unless the House approves the amendment.
House leaders say the amendment could lead to the use of leases and revenue bonds, which are more expensive than general obligation bonds and are not addressed in the amendment’s proposed limit.
Should the constitutional amendment pass the Legislature, it would need a majority approval for voters to be implemented.
A special session technically lasts 30 days. (AP)