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Jerry Cornfield | jcornfield@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 1:29 p.m.

Gregoire still sees chance to avoid special session

Gov. Chris Gregoire said today she's not giving up on lawmakers reaching agreement on a budget in time to adjourn on schedule Thursday.

Though she made clear that time is running out before a special session can't be avoided.

“No question about it, if we don't have significant movement by the end of the day, it will be very difficult to get out by midnight Thursday,” Gregoire said in a news conference. “I am one of those people who will fight until the end to get out on time.”

When asked to elaborate on what she considered “significant movement,” she relied on a line made famous in a Supreme Court case on pornography – “I'll know it when I see it.”

She told reporters there are conversations going on “across the aisle with respect to the Senate and across the dome with respect to the House.”

And she said if those do not produce enough results to get the job done by Thursday, maybe they'll at least get lawmakers close enough so they will only need to come back for a couple days to wrap up.

“I am not interested in a special session. I want to get the job done.”

She won't get any argument from those lawmakers tasked with solving the budget conflict.

Right now, there are two budgets in play – one written and passed by the Democratic majority in the House and with the aid of Democrats.

There are a couple big differences gumming up the works. For example, the House delays a $330 million apportionment payment to public schools by one day to push those expenses into the next budget. Senate Republicans call it a gimmick they won't agree to include in a final plan.

On the flip side, the Republicans' reliance on skipping a payment into one of the state's pension plans seems a nonstarter for Democrats.

Thus far, House Democratic leaders are choosing to not negotiate directly with Senate Republicans. Rather, they're relying on Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, to serve as a facilitator of conversations and conduit for ideas with and from the GOP.

Murray said today he's hoping all the exchanges going on will get the Legislature in position to act on a compromise budget by Thursday night.

“By this time tomorrow, we'll have a better idea,” he said.

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