OLYMPIA, Wash. – It was a dramatic night at the Washington state capitol as lawmakers missed a midnight deadline to rebalance the state budget. That forced Governor Chris Gregoire to declare yet another overtime session. Just a short while later lawmakers wrapped up their work and adjourned.
Governor Gregoire played the role of negotiator-in-chief. Her shuttle diplomacy finally brought the Washington House and Senate to a bipartisan go-home deal.
Lawmakers needed some extra time on the clock. But they were able to pass a budget that closes a $500 million budget shortfall. It accomplishes that goal with a combination of cuts, fund transfers and even a tax on roll-your-own cigarettes.
Lawmakers also approved a package of public works construction projects. The goal is to create 20,000 jobs.
And then there were a series of reform measures designed to save the state money down the road. One would scale back early retirement benefits for future state hires.
Thornton Alberg watched that vote from the House gallery. He’s a current state worker and union leader.
“Feels like a personal attack," Alberg says. "We’ve taken pay cuts, we’ve taken health care benefit cuts, furlough days.”
But Governor Gregoire praised lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for coming together to take “tough votes.”
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network