Senate GOP prodding House on budget

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Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville

Washington Senate Republicans are floating suggestions that the House Democrats don't have the votes to pass a 2015-2017 operating budget with taxes.

The GOP strongly hinted at that scenario in a Tuesday weekly press session. Also Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, specifically mentioned that scenario in a Wednesday blog posting. The Republican theme is that the House Democrats might unveil a 2015-2017 budget without tax bills simultaneously emerging to pay for the budget.

In his Wednesday blog entry, Schoesler wrote: "Anyone with an ear to the floor can hear the rumblings of trouble. ... We have yet to hear any wild cheering from the House Democrats for any of the tax schemes on the table – carbon taxes, capital gains taxes or anything else. Honestly the chance is low that any such tax bill would pass the House, because the Democrats have just 51 of 98 members."

He went on to say, "This raises the possibility that the House might pass a budget bill but leave taxes to be settled later. This could snarl up the negotiations" between the House and Senate on a final budget.

The Democratic-controlled House's budget numbers are still being crunched and the votes are still being worked on. That budget proposal is expected to be unveiled in late March or early April. The GOP-controlled Senate is expected to announce its budget proposal several days later.

Both sides have been tight-lipped about almost all proposed budget details so far. The Senate biennial budget proposal is expected to be in the neighborhood of $37 billion with no or few tax increases. The House budget is expected to be noticeably larger with some tax increases and new taxes. Its proposed taxes won't be known until at least that unveiling.

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina and the House's chief budget writer, downplayed the GOP's call for introducing full-fledged tax bills at the same time as the proposed budget is announced. He said the Republicans -- when it was their turn to introduce a budget proposal first in 2013 -- unveiled its budget proposal with some implementation bills being submitted later. "It's the pot calling the kettle black," he said.

Hunter said the Democratic budget proposal will identify funding sources for the extra revenue needed to pass it. But he added that the actual tax bills could easily be held off until the Senate and House reach an agreement on revenue and revenue sources.

The GOP Senate has one so-far unfunded budget increase in play. It recently passed a major university tuition reduction bill, which will require $240 million to implement.

The Legislature has frequently failed to pass a budget during its regular sessions, forcing governors to call them back to meet the constitutional requirement for enacting two-year budgets in odd-numbered years. The current biennial budget will expire June 30.

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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8