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Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’ll call a special legislative session before Christmas to deal with a projected $1.1 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

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By Andrew Garber

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’ll call a special legislative session before Christmas to deal with a projected $1.1 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

The governor made the announcement Monday afternoon after meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate. No date has been set yet.

She gave legislative leaders until Thursday afternoon to give her a date they can agree on.

“I made it clear we’re going into special session,” Gregoire said. “I just want to know from them what day they want to come in. I’d like them to come in, get the job done and go home.”

Gregoire said she suggested this Friday “and they were a little bit reticent. I want to defer to them,” she said.

What happens if they can’t agree on a day?

“I’ll give them a day,” Gregoire said.

House and Senate lawmakers will be in Olympia this week for committee meetings to get up to speed on issues they expect to face during their regular session, which starts in January.

Democratic and Republican leaders have given Gregoire lists of possible budget cuts to help balance the current spending plan. Gregoire has developed her own list, as well.

The governor says a special session is warranted because last month’s revenue forecast showed tax collections falling below projections.

Overall, the state expects to bring in around $900 million less in revenue this fiscal year, which runs through next June. Costs of state programs — primarily health care for the poor — also have risen, bringing the shortfall for this fiscal year to $1.1 billion.

In addition to the current budget gap, the projected shortfall for the next two-year budget is around $5.7 billion. Gregoire said she doesn’t expect to solve the entire budget problem for the current fiscal year in a special session, but wants to tackle a big chunk of the shortfall.

“What I’m asking them to come in and do, is take some early action on a number of issues so we can advance the ball dramatically,” she said.

Gregoire said lawmakers need to brief their caucuses before agreeing to a date.

Republicans said they’re ready to go anytime.

“We know there’s a problem and that we have to be part of the solution,” said House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “We’re going to team up, and we’re going to be part of the solution.”

Andrew Garber: agarber@seattletimes.com or 360-236-8268

 

 

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