Negotiators in Olympia have agreed to the large components of a new state budget but continued to work Tuesday through the smaller details.
Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said the talks have had no setbacks and lawmakers are close to agreement on a two-year, $33 billion spending plan that would avert a government shutdown next week. Inslee said Monday that a deal was imminent and had hoped it would have been finalized within hours, but as of Tuesday evening, no announcement was forthcoming.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, cautioned that negotiators “remain a part on a handful of substantive” matters. He said it’s still possible a stalemate would trigger a shutdown, but he was optimistic that wouldn’t happen.
“I think it’s becoming more and more unlikely,” Carlyle said.
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said that as of Tuesday afternoon there were still “four important issues to resolve,” though he wouldn’t go into detail on what those were.
“We’re getting there,” he said. “We’re making real progress.”
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom agreed, saying that lawmakers are “so close.”
“We’ll be out of here as fast as we can,” he said. “But more important than expediency is getting the job done right.”
After negotiators agree to a new spending plan, it may take a few more days to pass the budget through the Legislature. Smith said the Governor’s Office hopes the it will finish that job before state workers go home for the weekend.
The Democratic-controlled House and the Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats, including Tom, have been locked in budget negotiations for several weeks. They are currently in a second overtime legislative session after adjourning both a regular 105-day legislative session and a 30-day special session without reaching a budget deal.
More than 25,000 workers would be temporarily laid off starting Monday if there is no new budget by then, and thousands of workers already have received notifications that it could happen. The state believes 34 agencies will have to cease operations next week while another 24 agencies would be partially shut down.