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Budget clash causes extended legislative session
"They're not done yet.Gov. Gary Locke called the Legislature back into a special session after lawmakers failed to pass any of the four state budgets offered up this year.The session officially ended Thursday at midnight, but at 9 a.m. Friday morning, legislators were back in action. At publication time, party leaders hadn't decided whether members would be working through the weekend.It depends on how close we are in the budget, said Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-35th District, who had to cancel her plane tickets to Hawaii because of the extended session.She and the other 146 legislators are stuck in Olympia until the majority of them adopt the House Republican budget, the House Democrat budget, the Senate budget or the one offered by Locke.Of the proposals, the Senate budget has made the most progress: Senators sent it to the House last weekend. The representatives so far haven't found middle ground between their Democrat and Republican proposals. They must reach an agreement to send it to the Senate.So it's back to the bargaining table for lawmakers.The idea is to keep the pressure up, Haigh said.She said if legislators work this weekend, it will motivate budget writers to reach an agreement.Sen. Bob Oke, R-26th District, said he hopes lawmakers will gravitate toward the House Republican budget. But with an even split along party lines in the House, Oke said progress is hard-won.There's a lot of frustration with this divided House. A 49-49 split is just ugly. It really puts power in the individual who would cross party lines, Oke said.Still, Oke is hopeful the House can complete a budget that's better than the Senate plan he opposes. The Democrats on the House side have no great love for this (Senate) budget we sent them, Oke said.Oke added that after several years of extended sessions, he has learned not to make plans immediately after the session.Haigh said her personal goal is to preserve money for education when projected enrollment numbers - which determine how much money schools receive - fall short.Just because the school had 10 less kids coming through the door doesn't mean it costs a dime less to run that school, she said. We're working hard to find ways to keep those dollars running back to schools.Legislators are itching to wrap up the extension of the original 60-day session because all members of the House and about half of the Senate will be up for re-election this year.Time spent making laws and wrangling over the budget takes time away from doorbelling, campaigning and raising money for re-election."