Washington state parks set to stay open after legislature passes budget

By: KIRO 7 News Staff

Updated:

After months of struggling to find a compromise, the Washington state Senate and House passed a $43.7 billion budget that satisfies a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding.

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the budget before midnight, averting a partial state government shutdown. His office told KIRO 7 News that there will be no shutdown for services funded by the operating budget.

It's good news for campers because in the event of a partial state government shutdown, Washington state parks would have closed over the holiday weekend.

Under the contingency plans, all of Washington state parks would close July 1 without a budget deal.

Washington State Park operates more than 100 parks.The parks department released the following statement while waiting for a budget.

"Because adequate time is needed to prepare parks for closure, state parks will be closed on Saturday, unless the agency receives notification and guidance from the Governor’s Office that legislators are certain to approve a budget in time for it to be enacted by midnight June 30."

"Parks staff will need to evacuate campers from the park on the Saturday morning, July 1, and will not allow day-use visitors and new campers entry into parks on Friday."

Pending Inslee's signature, campers' plan can stay intact for the holidays.

Washington State Parks includes Camano Island,  Cape Disappointment, Lake Chelan, Saint Edwards Park, and Wallace Falls. See full list here.


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About the budget deal

The budget, which will work for the next two years, increases spending for public schools, mental health and state worker contracts. Read details about that here.

But the budget is getting criticism from King County financial analysts who believe it largely comes at the expense of Puget Sound residents who will see large tax hikes and limited increases in local school funding. Read about that here.

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate have been struggling for months to find compromise on a budget that addresses a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding.

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.

As for why this is the third time lawmakers’ budget talks nearly prompted a shutdown, Democratic Rep. Timm Ormsby one of the main budget negotiators for the House told The Associated Press: "this is what divided government looks like."

"We're just representing disparate political philosophies and trying to understand what those are," he said before the final agreement. "Trying to overcome them has been the work, but the tone has always been good and remains good," he said.

An added challenge for the Legislature this year was addressing the education component of the budget.

The state has been in contempt of court since 2014 for lack of progress on satisfying a 2012 high court ruling that found that school funding was not adequate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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