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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

To Raise Or Not To Raise Taxes: A Statehouse Agony

To raise or not to raise taxes? That is the question that’s pushing Washington lawmakers into a second 30-day special session.

The first overtime session ends Thursday without a bipartisan budget deal. After 135 days in session, Senate budget chair Andy Hill, a Republican, and House Majority leader Pat Sullivan, a Democrat, still don’t agree on the question of taxes as part of the final budget.

Hill pointed to last week’s positive revenue forecast.

“The argument to raise taxes, I believe, went out the window last Monday,” he said. “With $500 million of additional revenue, you don’t need taxes.”

Hill used the 30th day of the 30-day special session to make public his latest offer to Democrats. He said it shows Republicans’ willingness to compromise.

For instance, it would fully fund state employee collective bargaining contracts if Democrats agree to open those bargaining sessions to the public. But the budget does not budge on taxes.

That left Sullivan unimpressed.

“Even with the additional revenue that doesn’t fill the holes that they have in their budget,” he said. “They hold onto their gimmicks, one-time expenditures, you can’t do that. We want a sustainable budget which doesn’t put us in a position where two years from now we’re having this exact same fight.”

This is not Hamlet staring at himself in a mirror. This is Democrats and Republicans staring at each other across the Rotunda. And the agony could go on for another 30 days.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."