March 20, 2010
It was 4:30 p.m. Friday when the gavel fell. Saturday, they adjourned even earlier, at 3:15 p.m. And they're taking Sunday off.
It's now *six* days and counting.
The state's special session did finally pick up a little speed. Saturday the House said "yes" to a $790 million dollar tax package that closes tax exemptions and collects more money from businesses.
Q13 has been keeping tally all week of just how much cash the special session is costing taxpayers.
With a going rate of $14,000 a day, the grand total is $98,000 so far.
Lawmakers return Monday morning to decide which taxes should be raised to balance the state budget.
Legislators say they're doing everything they can to get the budget done and get out of town. But a lot of people want to know: are they hard at work or hardly working?
It depends on who you ask. Senate Majority Leader Ed Murray emerged from one of many closed door meetings to say they're trying to get it done. "I think we're getting there, we're coming together on the budget" Murray explained. Republicans say the pace is way too slow. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt said "mostly we just hang around because they're in control." "We don't know when we're going to be on the floor, when we're in committee " Hewitt added.
The governor had made no secret about her frustration and even went over to the legislative offices to try and make a deal happen. "I wanted it done today, I gave them two extra days and every extra day is too much" Gregoire explained.
Republicans say they're trying to keep up with the process and offer suggestions but they're not being included in the negotiations. Representative Mike Armstrong has been in the legislature for ten years "the special session is going downhill" he said.
Friday they had a handful of floor sessions and even a few short debates but Republicans want to see things moving faster. House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt called it "the worst session, ever, for taxpayers."
Democrats defended the pace saying they're dealing with a lot of tough issues. And just because there's not much action on the floor, doesn't mean they're not negotiating behind closed doors. That's where much of the work happens.
"Members are working hard, they're away from families" Murray said. State Representative Geoff Simpson said "I have no desire to spend any more time here than is necessary - but having said that, we're making important decisions."
Small business owner Mac McElroy came down to see how it all works, he's thinking about running for state office himself. "I sort of wanted to see what was going on; but right now, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot going on" McElroy said. "There doesn't seem to be a real sense of urgency" he added.
There were some signs of compromise Friday as both houses passed budget-related legislation. But, they've still got a long way to go before they're done and that means working through the weekend.
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