State lawmakers to pull all-nighter to try to reach budget deal, avert government shutdown

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Lawmakers were expected to work through the night Tuesday to finalize a state budget deal.

People on both sides of the aisle say at this point, it’s not really about partisan issues, but that there’s just a lot to go over and tally when you’re talking about a $42 billion to $46 billion two-year budget.  At least $7 billion goes to education alone.

The Capitol is quiet.  The campus is bare.  Lawmakers are huddled in closed-door meetings, debating the final line items on the budget.

“The enormity of the decisions we had to make this year were bigger than what we’ve seen in a long time,” said House Finance Committee Chairwoman Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes

The biggest issue this year is the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision requiring full funding of education. Lawmakers must figure out how to fund Washington’s public school system with all 296 school districts and more than a million kids.

“Very different lifestyles, live in completely diverse parts of the state, who have all kinds of different life experiences. And we have to … we’re responsible to meet the needs of all of those folks,” said House Appropriations Committee Vice Chairwoman June Robinson, D-Everett.

Finalizing a multibillion-dollar, two-year budget isn’t quite like budgeting a household.  The analogy, lawmakers say, falls short.

“When you’re a family, you all live the same way, you live in the same house, you all do similar things,” said Robinson.

But in a state of 7 million, from cities to rural communities, lawmakers are all pushing for their constituents and their issues to be funded.  So what’s the holdup?  No lawmaker on either side of the aisle would say what’s pushing their negotiations to the limit.  But all agree, the sheer complexity of going line-by-line is exhausting.

“It’s not just the dollar amounts and trying to understand each other’s perspectives on what’s important and our values. It’s the language that goes along with that because we have to write a budget and what we learned is that words matter and a word that means something to me means something totally something different to someone else,” said Lytton.

The looming government shutdown is a deadline both Democrats and Republicans argue they can’t miss, promising a budget by Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a budget that probably no one is going to love because of that. That’s what compromise is about,” said Robinson.

Lawmakers say they might actually reach a budget deal in principle late Tuesday night, but the vote and the announcement of a balanced operational budget won’t come until Wednesday.

If a new state budget is not passed by June 30 -- the end of the fiscal year -- the government will be forced to partially shut down due to lack of funding at the start of the new fiscal year, which is Saturday, July 1.