Zarelli wants Republican leaders to appoint Democrats to the committee and Democratic leaders to appoint Republicans to the committee and then have the committee report back with a strategy to balance the budget.
Zarelli said today:
The obvious question, with a budget that is so far out of balance so soon, is, "What now?" As I suggested a week ago, the most promising approach is to assemble a bipartisan budget-blueprint group and have it develop a comprehensive solution for the Legislature to consider, incorporating short-and-long term reforms.
I understand such an approach is unprecedented, but so is the situation we face. A group that comprises fiscal-committee members with budget familiarity, selected through a unique across-the-aisle process – half of them would be chosen by the opposing party's leader – offers the best chance for a serious, thoughtful solution capable of attracting the votes needed to pass the Legislature.
The governor could call us into a special session before January, of course, but it would have to be productive, and that would require a lot of advance work – because the last thing anyone needs is weeks of legislative wrangling with little savings to show for it.
While the budget is in serious trouble, the groundbreaking bipartisan process that created it remains viable. I have already met with Senator Murray and stand ready to join him in working toward a response. We both recognize that inaction is something the taxpayers simply cannot afford.
Zarelli's counterpart, Democratic senate ways and means chair, State Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), has been cold to the idea. Calling Zarelli's idea "posturing" he told PubliCola:
The only way to get useful negotiations is if you have members who can deliver the votes [in their respective caucuses]. That’s why my caucus appointed me and Kilmer [budget vice chair Sen. Derek Kilmer]. We can deliver votes. Would the Republicans choose [Sen.] Tim Sheldon.” (Sheldon is conservative Democrat who votes with the Republicans.)