by: Essex Porter Updated:
OLYMPIA. Wash. - In a sign that a budget deal is close, leaders of the state House of Representatives late Friday added a Sunday session to the schedule. The House will join the state Senate, which already had a Sunday session planned.
Without a budget by July 1, public safety, education, even state parks will be at risk in a government shutdown. If a budget isn't passed by Monday, furlough notices will have to go out to most of the 59,000 state workers.
Putting the pressure on, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee called a late afternoon news conference. "If they (budget negotiators) don't reach agreement today," Inslee said, "I'll be calling them back at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning and I will ensure that negotiations will be continuing all weekend full time."
Between closing the estate tax loophole and the improving revenue forecast, lawmakers have an additional $480 million to help close the gap between the two sides. But the governor and House Democrats are at odds with the Republican-dominated Senate over how to use that money. "The Senate is really trying to push for more money in both K-12 and higher education," says Medina Democrat Rodney, the Senate majority leader, "and that seems to be the sticking point right now with the House and the governor."
But the governor believes that improving education also means spending money outside the classroom. "It's very difficult to educate a homeless, hungry, sick child," said Inslee.