Budget negotiations continue as state shutdown looms

OLYMPIA, Wash. - In the state capitol Monday, House Democrats say they have a budget plan which doesn't call for any new revenue. Instead, they would close or limit tax exemptions.

The clock is ticking as politicians have fewer than 10 days to reach an agreement on a state budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. If they fail to come to terms by the first of July, a partial government shutdown will go into place.

In preparation for the potential government shutdown, 26,000 notices are planned to be sent to government workers who could face a temporary layoff if the budget is not approved before the deadline.

The new plan released Monday comes days after Gov. Jay Inslee said that tax exemptions should be the compromise that the House and Senate consider in order to reach a budget agreement quickly and avoid a partial government shutdown in Washington state.

House Democrats propose limiting exemptions like the sales tax exemption for residents who live in states without a sales tax, like Oregon, and repealing others, like the sales tax on bottled water and another on extracted fuel. In total, the plan would raise $356.5 million for the next two year budget.

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate have been locked in budget negotiations for several weeks, and are currently in a second overtime legislative session after adjourning both a regular 105-day legislative session and a 30-day special session without reaching a deal. The current special session ends Saturday.

Politicians said over the weekend the two sides made some progress in budget talks, working toward a compromise.

If no budget is agreed to, the looming government shutdown would be the first government shut down in the state's history.

"This is a do-or-die week for lawmakers," said Austin Jenkins, political reporter for Northwest News Network. "If they don't get a deal this week, then the prospects of a partial state government shutdown suddenly go form being kind of a paper exercise to something that looks very real if not inevitable."

If the partial government shutdown is enacted, parks and fisheries in the state may be closed along with other government programs. Places like prisons and mental health facilities would remain open and programs such as Medicaid would remain intact.

The deadline for the legislature to come to an agreement and pass a budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year is June 30 at midnight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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