Olympia Budget Talks: T-minus 8 days

With a government shut down looking, lawmakers struggle towards a budget compromise.
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Lawmakers continue to huddle behind closed doors at the capitol.

With a government shut down looking, lawmakers struggle towards a budget compromise.

A few handfuls of tourists were all that roamed the halls of the State Capitol  Saturday as legislative leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee met behind closed doors to try to reach a budget compromise.

No word of a deal had been made public by late Saturday afternoon.

Rank-and-file members of the Senate and House stayed home Saturday. They are scheduled to show up in the Capitol at 1 p.m. today when they will likely be briefed on whether a deal had been reached and, if no, what sticking points remain.

No deal means talks will continue today.

Looming over the debate is the fact that many state functions will shut down on July 1 if lawmakers fail to pass a 2013-2015 operating budget by then. If no budget action occurs in the Legislature by Monday, the first notices of layoffs or furloughs will go out to state employees.

Possibly in play for the Senate majority coalition are bills to increase the amounts and interest allowed on payday loans; place a cap on non-education funding increase. install a requirement that teachers and principals agree whenever a teacher is assigned to a new school and lower the age (from 55 to 40) at which workers can collect potential lump settlements on compensation claims.

Democratic bills potentially in play include one that would raise $208 million for the 2013-2015 biennium by closing six tax exemptions.

Where lawmakers stand on a bill to close another tax exemption is fuzzier. The House wants to repeal a landline phone tax exemption as way to head off lawsuits froom cellular and other telecommunications firms seeking the same exemptions. (Verizon filed such litigation earlier this year.) A successful lawsuit in 2014 could compel the state to refund about $430 million in fiscal 2015, and spell the loss of about $430 million in 2015-2017 revenue, and another $673 million in 2017-2019.

The Senate's last public 2013-2015 operating budget proposal called for spending $33.2 billion. The House's last public proposal was at $33.5 billion. Even if the Democrats and Republicans close in on the basic size of the 2013-2015 budget, they still have to agree on how that money should be spent.

The majority coalition wants to significantly cut health and social services and funnel those savings into education, while keeping tax increases and exemption closures to a minimum. Democrats believe the Republicans' non-education cuts are draconian and insist that extra revenue to improve education can be found without crippling other programs. Each side has also questioned the other's math, focusing on the various accounting moves used to assemble the two competing approaches to the 2013-2015 budget.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8