Gregoire says special session inevitable

Gregoire says special session inevitable
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Gov. Chris Gregoire said Monday that a special session to deal with the state's budget shortfall is inevitable, and she gave lawmakers a Thursday deadline to present her with a date to hold it.

Gregoire said that if lawmakers don't have a plan for her by Thursday afternoon, she'll pick a date for them, but said that it will happen before the Christmas holiday.

"I need them to take action now," she told reporters after the meeting.

Gregoire announced the deadline after meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

"We're prepared to go to work whenever we have to," Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said after the meeting.

Democratic leaders avoided reporters after the meeting, slipping out a back door.

Gregoire said that they told her they couldn't commit their caucuses until they go through all of the budget-cutting options with their members.

Gregoire has been in talks with legislative leaders for weeks on ideas to patch the current state budget, which covers general spending through June 2011.

Gregoire made across-the-board cuts to many programs earlier this year, but the deficit recently grew to more than $1 billion because of slow growth in tax collections.

Gregoire said that she's not asking lawmakers to come up with a supplemental budget in a special session, but to instead agree on taking early action on things that can be done now "so we can advance the ball dramatically so when they come back in January, they can finish the job."

Gregoire has already put forth some budget-balancing options, including elimination of the Basic Health Plan and raiding federal education dollars.

Republican and Democratic leaders have also been putting together their own lists of suggestions of cuts that could be made.