With the deadline to avoid a potential government shutdown looming later this week, legislative leaders say that while they are close, they've not yet reached final agreement on a new two-year state operating budget and now some people fear the window is closing for them to get a deal done by Friday night.
If they can’t reach a deal by Friday night, 32,000 state employees may face layoffs; state parks may temporarily close, and more.
The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate have been struggling for months to reach an agreement on a budget that addresses a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding.
They are currently in the midst of a third overtime session.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that Washington schools are underfunded and it mandated that it get fixed. One of the key points is that the state must take on salaries for teachers and other school staff. Right now, individual school districts take on a large portion of that pay.
"This is a generational problem we are solving," said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.
Schoesler, the Senate Majority Leader, would not guarantee a deal before the Friday deadline.
"I am as confident as I can be," said Schoesler.
While Washington state has never had a partial government shutdown, the Legislature has taken its budget talks to the brink before, including in 2013 and 2015, with budgets not signed by the governor until June 30 both years.
"This is what divided government looks like," said House Budget Chair, Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane.
He said if lawmakers can reach a deal by Wednesday morning, that should give lawmakers enough time to pass a budget in time to avoid a shutdown.
"In this business, there are no guarantees. We have a path to success," said Ormsby. "We're going down that path."
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