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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

War Of Words, No Smoke Signals As Secret Budget Talks Continue

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Members of the Washington state House and Senate Republican caucuses meet with reporters on the 58th day of the 60-day regular session.

The clock is running out on Washington’s 60-day legislative session. House Democrats and Senate Republicans have until Thursday at midnight to approve an update to the state’s two-year budget. But first they need to agree on the details.

This is the point in a legislative session where committee action is over, floor action is limited and the real action is behind the scenes in the form of secret negotiations. House budget chair Hans Dunshee previously floated the idea of going home without updating the budget. But Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler and House Republican floor leader J.T. Wilcox reject that idea.

“The only one’s that have talked about no budget seem to be the House Democrats,” Schoesler said. “The governor says he wants a budget, my caucus wants a budget. I’m sure J.T. does.”

“We sure as heck do,” Wilcox said.

The governor has vowed to start vetoing bills if lawmakers don’t deliver a budget to him by the Thursday deadline. Republicans say that’s counterproductive.

Key budget sticking points include whether to tap into the state’s rainy day fund and whether the budget needs to balance over four years. A go-home deal may also be contingent on a couple of policy issues, including legislation to allow charter schools to remain open and a proposed state Voting Rights Act.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."