Budget Deal Struck In Time To Avert Washington Shutdown

By Austin Jenkins

The Washington legislature hopes to deliver a budget to Gov. Jay Inslee by the end of business Friday. This after the House and Senate reached a handshake deal on a $33.6 billion state budget for the next two years. The agreement – after weeks of negotiations - should avert a government shutdown on Monday.

The official announcement came from Gov. Inslee, who was flanked by legislative leaders.

Jay Inslee: “We are 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.”

Governor Jay Inslee with lawmakers in tow prepares to announce a budget deal that will avert a state government shutdown on July 1. Photo by Austin JenkinsInslee emphasized and re-emphasized this means state government will not shut down after this weekend – the end of the fiscal year.

Jay Inslee: “Government operations will not be interrupted.”

That’s good news for state employees, those who rely on state services and Fourth of July vacationers with plans to celebrate at State Parks. Details of the budget deal have been slow to emerge. But here are the basics. Public schools will get $1 billion more. That’s a down payment on a Supreme Court decision. Tuition at public colleges and universities will be frozen for a least a year. And the social safety net should escape further cuts. Senate budget chair Andy Hill, a Republican, calls it a classic “compromise budget.”

Andy Hill: “Not everybody is exactly pleased with the way money was spent on both sides. That’s the beauty of the process.”

Gov. Jay Inslee with lawmakers in tow prepares to announce a budget deal that will avert a state government shutdown on July 1. Photo by Austin Jenkins

House budget chair Ross Hunter, a Democrat, says the biggest compromise was in how the budget is funded, not where the money is spent.

Ross Hunter: “The funding sources are different. The budget that we proposed used closing a number of corporate tax loopholes that we thought were outdated and not as useful.”

In the end, the final budget will eliminate just one tax exemption on residential phone service. Republican Hill is pleased.

Andy Hill: “It’s easy to raise taxes. Some would say it’s intellectually lazy to do that. The hard work is actually sitting and really trying to reprioritize spending and focus where you want to go.”

Budget writers caught a break earlier this month with a positive quarterly revenue forecast. That extra money helped them bridge their differences over taxes. Governor Inslee hopes to have the budget passed and on his desk before the weekend.

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