The story in Olympia is changing by the hour as the Legislature heads into what is supposed to be the final week of the session. Senate Democrats are backpedalling from a statement Friday night that there's not enough support — from the public or within the caucus — to put a tax measure on the November ballot. (Although I'm still hearing that it's unlikely a tax bill would move out of the Senate.)
Meanwhile, the Washington State Hospital Association announced Saturday it had abandoned plans to help fund a campaign for a tax measure (assuming the Legislature put one on the ballot), only to change its tune Saturday afternoon. Now, apparently, the organization is reconsidering whether it will in fact pony up $1.5M in partnership with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Saturday brought a flurry of meetings and phone calls between stakeholder groups and lawmakers. The tea leaves I'm reading suggest House Democrats are still seriously considering a three-tenths-of-one-percent sales tax increase for health care. But there hasn't been a discussion with the entire membership yet. In the Senate, there are certainly Democrats who support putting a tax package on the ballot. But most Senators I talk to say if they had to predict it's unlikely a tax will pass. Of course anything could happen between now and Sine Die (Olympia speak for adjournment).
In the end, the tax talk is really just a distraction. House and Senate Democrats still have to agree on and pass a budget that closes a $9 billion budget shortfall. That's what threatens to send them into overtime.