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State budget impasse prompts finger-pointing

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There’s one week left in Washington’s special legislative session and still no budget deal. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Senate majority caucus held dueling news conferences Tuesday, complete with plenty of finger-pointing.

The governor went first. Inslee, a Democrat, blasted the mostly-Republican senate majority for an estate tax measure that passed out of committee late last week. Inslee called it a new tax break for more than 200 wealthy Washingtonians at the expense of public schools.

“That has been a shocking development in these discussions. I will have to say that,” Inslee said.

Under the proposal, by 2017 only estates worth more than $5.6 million would be taxed. The Senate majority caucus says that threshold would align Washington law with federal law, and is intended to help small family businesses.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler blamed Democrats for the budget impasse. He said Democrats insist on new revenues but won’t embrace so-called “reform” measures dealing with the budget, education, and the state’s injured workers program.

“We want to do the things that don’t put us back in this budget mess, moves education ahead and puts more Washington residents to work,” said Schoesler.

Inslee says he is prepared to immediately call lawmakers back into a second special session if there’s no budget deal by next Tuesday’s deadline.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.