Washington State Reaches Budget Outline, Averts Partial Government Shutdown

By Zusha Elinson Features Dow Jones Newswires

Washington state lawmakers reached the outline of a budget deal after working into the early morning hours Wednesday, averting a partial government shutdown, state officials said.

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The agreement came after a prolonged fight between Republicans who control the state Senate, Democrats who control the House and the governor's office.

The sides have been at odds over how to meet state education funding levels mandated by the state Supreme Court in its two-year budget.

Although a deal in principle is in place, negotiators are still working on the final points, and the full details of the budget accord won't be released until Thursday, according to state officials.

More than 30,000 state workers had been given temporary layoff notices in the event that the lawmakers didn't get a deal done by the Friday midnight deadline. The partial shutdown would have touched nearly every state department from parks to prisons.

Republicans and Democrats have been at odds about how to satisfy a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that found the state wasn't adequately funding public education. Republicans had proposed boosting property taxes while Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, proposed taxes on carbon and capital gains. House Democrats also proposed a new online sales tax.

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David Postman, chief of staff to Mr. Inslee, said the budget was a "big lift" because of two factors: "The Supreme Court has said that the state has not adequately funded education and the political realities of split control of the legislature."

Mark Schoesler, the Republican state Senate majority leader said the "real difficulty besides negotiating a budget with the other chamber and the other party is we are doing a generational change about how we fund schools in Washington."

The showdown in Washington state, home to more than seven million people, came as legislatures in Illinois and Maine are also fighting over their budgets.

The Washington state budget came down to the wire for the third straight time. Two years ago, Republicans and Democrats were at odds over similar issues before the sides reached a $38 billion two-year budget deal.

Write to Zusha Elinson at zusha.elinson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 28, 2017 15:36 ET (19:36 GMT)