At the same time House Democrats were preparing to open public hearings on a series of budget-related bills, Senate Republicans (along with two-Democratic traitors) held a press conference at which they pretty much announced there would be no supplemental budget deal by the close of the current 30-day special session.

"Given what has happened… it's highly unlikely," allegedly Democratic Senator Jim Kastama said about the possibility of a budget deal by the Tuesday deadline. Shadow Ways & Means Chair Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield), who criticized the latest House proposal for pushing the two sides "further apart," didn't appear to be in any rush to wrap things up, adding: "It's going to take the time it takes."

And that essentially is that. I suppose Governor Chris Gregoire could just address this latest revenue shortfall by unilaterally imposing across-the-board cuts. But barring some last minute change of heart, I'm guessing it's more likely that we're heading toward a second, even specialer session.

The real sticking points? Well... who really knows? But the Republicans and their couple of faux-Dem allies sure do seem determined to use this latest revenue shortfall as an opportunity to permanently downsize state government. "It's not just about balancing the budget," Zarelli emphasized, perhaps the most blunt and truthful statement of the day.

And that essentially is the heart of the dispute. Balancing the budget doesn't seem to be the ultimate end for Republicans in this special session (or the next). No, the real goal is to use the act of balancing the budget as an opportunity for reducing state worker pension and health care benefits, and eliminating entire programs. Republicans advocate for such cuts under the banner of "sustainability"—though if sustainability was really their goal, they'd also be willing to discuss the option of raising additional revenue. So I gotta wonder if the Republicans real strategy here isn't to turn a relatively modest revenue shortfall into a budgetary crisis that can be seized upon achieve the ultimate Republican objective of drowning government in a bathtub?