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Government and Politics
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."

No Budget Deal Announcement In Olympia, Yet Optimism Remains

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There’s still no word of a budget deal in the Washington state Capitol. And a partial government shutdown is just days away. Yet lawmakers remain optimistic.

?In the Republican Senate, Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said a deal is near at hand. ??

“They are incredibly close,” he said. “They are getting into more of the minutiae of making a budget work and I think all sides remain confident.” ??

In the Democratic House, budget chair Timm Ormsby said there’s no guarantee of averting a government shutdown.

But he added, “We have a path to success and clear sailing and we’re going down that path.” ??

By this day two years ago, Gov. Jay Inslee had announced a bipartisan budget deal. Not this year. ??

“I’m eager to get this news that we hope will be shortly forthcoming,” Inslee said. “Washingtonians deserve it and I look forward to that.” ??

In the meantime, he says, the situation is causing “considerable anxiety.”

If there is a government shutdown more than 30,000 state employees will be sent home, state parks will close and many other state functions will be suspended.

House Democrats and Senate Republicans have been struggling for months to reconcile their very different approaches to funding the budget and complying with a state Supreme Court ruling on school funding.

Key differences include whether to impose a new state property tax levy for schools—as Senate Republicans voted to do—or raise funds through other taxes—as House Democrats proposed.

Another point of contention has been whether to restrict local school levies and, if so, by how much. Currently local levies pay for a portion of basic education, but under the McCleary school funding ruling the state must pick up that burden.