Updated at 9:30 p.m.
Gov. Jay Inslee said five times in roughly a minute that state government will be operating fully on Monday.
House and Senate budget negotiators reached an agreement on a $33.486 billion budget after their two months of 2013-2015 closed-door budget talks, he said late Thursday morning — 3 1/2 days before the current fiscal biennium would run out on Sunday.
“I am happy and I know we are all relieved to report to you that lawmakers have reached agreement on an operating budget for the next biennium. This allows us to avert a government shutdown on Monday. Legislative leaders tell me they will move as quickly as possible to pass the budget and get it to me for my signature. They say that can be done by 5 p.m. Friday," Inslee said.
Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina and one of the House's budget negotiators, briefed the press Thursday afternoon on the broad strokes of the agreement. Specifics were to be publicly released on a legislative web site overnight. The Senate's Ways & Means Committee is scheduled to discuss the budget agreement at 8:30 a.m. today.
Thursday was the 60th day since the 105-day regular legislative session ended on April 28.
"It's a delicate arrangement with lots of moving parts," Hunter said.
Inslee spokesman David Postman said a fish-consumption study requested by Boeing Co. during the talks and by the Senate has been "delinked" from the budget talks — meaning the issue is still open, but no longer tied to the budget agreement.
Inslee and the House Democrats have opposed the study, saying it will delay new pollution regulations designed to protect human health. A compromise is being worked on as to when the new regulations would go into effect, as planned, and the study would be started; the regulations would be revisited after the study results are known.
The Boeing Co. does not like the upcoming change in the state regulations, which could lead to expensive upgrades in those discharge systems. Boeing wants a study on the numbers and types of fish consumed in Washington, in addition to one reporting who caught the fish where. Boeing and the Senate have wanted that study done before the new pollution discharge regulations go into effect.
Another ongoing issue removed from the budget talks was a bipartisan bill to have all new tax exemptions include criteria to determine whether they are meeting their economic development goals when they are routinely revisited five to 10 years from now. The sticking point has been the Republicans have wanted select corporate information kept secret in seeking new tax exemptions, while the Democrats have wanted that information made public. The only exception would be when a company can prove the specific data constitute a legitimate proprietary secret.
Hunter's briefing to the press covered these points.
- Allocating $1 billion to improve K-12 education to begin meeting a Washington Supreme Court ruling to tackle a list of improvements by 2019. The Senate and House have been divided on defining what improvements are needed and how to raise the extra $1 billion for 2013--2015 through budget transfers and/or new revenue. Overall, an extra $4 billion to $4.5 billion will have to be spent by 2019 to meet the Supreme Court's requirements.
The two sides agreed on what needs to be done for 2013-2015, but not on what has to be tackled from 2015 to 2019. For 2013-2015, money will be spent on installing all-day kindergartens, improving the student-teacher ratios in kindergartens and first grades in the most impoverished schools, and bumping the number of instructional hours per year in high schools to 1,080 hour per year. Right now, high schools average about 1,000 hours of instruction per year.
- Agreeing to repeal a landline phone tax exemption as a preventative measure to head off cellular companies and other telecommunications firms from filing lawsuits seeking the same exemptions. This raises $109 million in 2013-2015 for funding education improvements. A successful lawsuit in 2014 under the current status could have led to massive refunds. The House quickly passed that repeal 77-15.
- No state college tuition increases will be allowed for one year. State universities will be able to seek tuition increases if needed in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
- The House lost on the six remaining tax exemptions it wanted to close to raise $208 million. At one point, the House Democrats proposed to close 15 exemptions. The only tax exemptions to be closed this session are the inheritance tax loophole and the landline phone exemption. Democrats have described the inheritance and landline phone issues as closing unexpected glitches stemming from recent court rulings. Republicans have portrayed them as closing tax exemptions and as tax increases.
- The Senate's long-sought-after workers compensation reform bill dies this year. This would have lowered the eligible age from 55 to 40 on potential lump settlements on workers compensation claims.
- A House green light will be given to some stalled Senate K-12 education reform bills.
- Social and health services cuts will be somewhere between what the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-oriented Senate originally sought.
About $500 million in fund transfers will take place to make this budget work. That includes a $350 million transfer from the Public Works Trust Fund.
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