Washington political leaders say budget vote is near



OLYMPIA — Political leaders in Olympia say it’s possible they could vote on a new state budget by the end of Thursday.

David Postman, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said negotiators are still working to finalize a budget agreement, but lawmakers could complete that work during a series of morning meetings. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom has set a goal of approving the budget later Thursday or on Friday, and Postman said that was a possibility.

The governor’s office believes it’s particularly important that lawmakers finish the budget before state workers go home for the weekend at the end of Friday. Much of state government would be shut down and more than 25,000 state workers would be temporarily laid off if the state still doesn’t have a new spending plan by Monday.

Lawmakers were supposed to complete their budget work in April but have been quarreling for weeks over a variety of tax and policy proposals. One of the lingering issues in recent days has been a question about how much fish Washington residents consume — an issue that impacts water quality standards.

While the Senate had proposed a detailed study on the fish consumption issue, Postman said Thursday that the Senate had agreed to decouple the matter from budget talks.

Senate leaders have said lawmakers agreed to a budget framework and that staff is now in the process of drafting the final spending plan, even as lawmakers work through the final details. The Senate leaders described the main agreement as adding $1 billion to Washington state’s education system and providing enough funding to higher education to keep tuition flat.

Along with notifying many state workers about the prospect of being furloughed, the state has also been working to send notifications to thousands of people who use state services. Without a budget by Monday, people would lose health coverage, reservations at state parks would be canceled and state contractors would lose work.