Legislative update: Governor calls special session

From Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Washington’s regular legislative session came to an end on Sunday, April 23, 2017, without completing its main job—agreeing on a two-year budget. While each chamber had previously passed competing budget proposals, they did not reach a final agreement by the regular session deadline.

Governor Inslee called lawmakers back immediately for a 30-day special session starting Monday, April 24. If they cannot reach a budget agreement within 30 days, the governor will keep calling 30-day special sessions until they reach an agreement. Lawmakers will need to come to a final agreement on the state budgets prior to June 30, to avoid a state government shutdown. Legislators will receive the next revenue forecast on June 20 so they could wait to see if revenues have increased, which could make their job reaching an agreement easier.

It is important to note that during special sessions, the legislative process technically starts over, and all bills are revived. It is unlikely that the legislature will take up previously “dead” bills unless they are part of a final budget agreement.

On April 20, Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-Maltby) introduced a new carbon tax proposal, SB 5930. This is the fourth carbon tax proposal to have been introduced in the 2017 Legislative Session. This legislation would impose a carbon tax on the sale or use of all fossil fuels within the state, including fossil fuels used in generating electricity. The proposal sets an initial tax rate of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide beginning July 1, 2018, increasing $2.50 per year until reaching $30 per metric ton. There is an exemption from the tax for electricity imported by wheeling in Washington or BPA Tier 1 products.

It is important to note that neither the House nor Senate included a carbon tax as a way to fund their respective operating budgets