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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."

Still No Budget Deal Halfway Through Washington's Special Session

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

The halfway mark has come and gone in Washington’s 30-day special session of the legislature. But there’s still no deal on a budget or a school funding solution.

As budget talks creep along behind the scenes, outside groups are exerting pressure on lawmakers. Democrats are getting pressure from the state teachers’ union, who have been sending unionized teachers down to the Capitol every day of the special session to sort of occupy the Capitol.

On some days the number of teachers have outnumbered the number of state lawmakers. But that’s because most days, only the budget negotiators are at the Capitol.

On the business and Republican side, you’ve got the Relators and other groups running ads in the district of the House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, a Democrat, putting pressure on him to abandon support for the Democrats’ tax package.

Besides writing a balanced two-year state budget, Washington lawmakers this year must decide how to fund a constitutional public education system. The state is currently in contempt of court and accruing a $100,000-per-day fine in the McCleary school funding case.

The court-imposed deadline to fully fund schools is the 2018-19 school year. But in order to meet that deadline, the legislature and governor need to authorize the spending plan this year.

If lawmakers can’t reach a deal by May 23, Gov. Jay Inslee will be forced to call a second overtime session.

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."