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Originally published Friday, March 9, 2012 at 12:11 AM

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Wash. Legislature adjourns; special session called

The Washington Legislature has adjourned without passing a supplemental budget plan, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for a special session.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The Washington Legislature has adjourned without passing a supplemental budget plan, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for a special session.

Lawmakers ended the 60-day regular legislative session just after midnight Thursday, not long after Gregoire said lawmakers will return to the Capitol Monday for an extended session that could last as long as a month.

There had been several hours of speculation on Thursday about whether Senate Democrats would try to vote on the budget House Democrats passed earlier in the evening. That plan, an agreement between House and Senate Democrats, keeps in place a delayed payment to schools that Senate Republicans said ensured its failure in the Senate.

Ultimately, Senate Democrats decided to not take up the budget Thursday night.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

House Democrats on Thursday passed a budget agreement that keeps in place a delayed payment to schools that Senate Republicans have said will ensure its failure in the Senate, meaning the Legislature will almost certainly adjourn without a new spending plan.

The proposal passed on a mostly party line 53-45 vote hours ahead of Thursday's midnight end of the 60-day legislative session. Three Democrats voted against the budget, Reps. Deb Eddy, of Kirkland, Mark Miloscia, of Federal Way, and Jeff Morris, of Mount Vernon.

While it's an agreement between House and Senate Democrats, it is not expected to be the final budget that passes the Legislature. Gov. Chris Gregoire already met once with leadership from both parties on Thursday and they were expected to meet again sometime in the evening.

Gregoire first insisted on a budget deal by midnight, but has since said she wants at least a framework. She has said that even with a deal, a special session would be necessary to procedurally get everything done in the coming days.

The House Democrats' chief budget writer, Rep. Ross Hunter, introduced the replacement bill - known as a striker - to amend a Republican-crafted plan that passed the Senate over the weekend. The new proposal makes no cuts to education or higher ed, but still includes a one-day delay in payments to school districts to help balance the budget, a move Republicans have decried.

Before the House took its vote, Hunter called the budget proposal "a reasonable set of choices in very difficult times."

Rep. Gary Alexander, of Olympia, the Republican lead on the budget in the House, called the delay an accounting maneuver. "This is just kicking the can down the road," he said.

A Republican amendment that tried to move a budget that was a mix of Senate and House Republican plans, and which did not include the delayed payments, failed.

"Our only hope to get out of here on time just went down in flames," said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis.

In the new Democratic proposal, a $330 million payment to school districts would be delayed by one day to move the obligation into the next two-year budget cycle. Republicans have said that the idea is a non-starter for them.

Democrats, in turn, don't like the Republicans' plan to delay a pension payment by a year.

Gregoire said Thursday that once lawmakers are able to get past that impasse, there shouldn't be a problem in passing a budget agreement.

"The fundamental problem is, unless we have a breakthrough on the big issues, you can't get the inside of that budget resolved," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said the new proposal was a start that shows "one clear document to look at, that reflects where both House and Senate Democrats are."

She said that the new proposal from Democrats makes some moves toward Republican ideas, including some cuts to a welfare program for the poor. Lawmakers are looking to close a budget gap of about $500 million through the end of the two-year budget cycle ending June 2013, as well as leaving several hundred million dollars in reserves.

The budget drama began last Friday and continued into early Saturday morning, after a Republican-crafted budget passed out of the Senate with the help of three conservative Democrats. Senate Republicans have argued that Democrats have refused to talk with them, and note Senate Democrats are still a vote shy of getting the new proposal out of the Senate.

The Republicans' plan makes deeper cuts to state programs than either House or Senate Democrats' original plans do, especially in health and human services programs. It also proposed about $74 million in cuts to schools and colleges.

Republicans were able to advance their budget with a rarely-used procedure known as a "Ninth Order," which allows any bill to be pulled to the floor - even those that haven't had a public hearing. That budget passed early Saturday on a 25-24 vote. The plan, as passed, had no chance of getting past the House, where Democrats hold a 56-42 majority.

But Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli, of Ridgefield, who wrote the GOP budget plan, said the new plan offered by House Democrats equally has no chance in the Senate.

Brown acknowledged she wasn't sure whether they could find an extra vote in the Senate to pass the budget, and that she hadn't yet decided whether she would try to bring it to the floor Thursday night.


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