State budget deal said to be ‘close,’ with only 3 days left before government shutdown

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state is teetering on a financial cliff.

“Putting in long hours, we know how important it is for us to finish at all costs. We need to avoid a government shutdown,” said state Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes.

Lytton is one of a handful of key lawmakers negotiating a giant state budget of more than $43 billion.

“It’s all coming together,” Lytton said.

“We are really closing in,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said.

The question is can lawmakers handshake on a budget deal by Tuesday night.

“We really want to see that happen, and we are pushing hard,” Schoesler said.

The most challenging portion of the budget is education funding and how to compensate teachers.

“Every school in the state of Washington will see increased funding. How big it is yet to be determined but every proposal starts with every school doing better."

Schoesler says taxes are a last resort for his party but changes will be made to property taxes.

“Many students, because of the zip code, are at a great advantage or disadvantage based on their zip code, so some property tax reform is inevitable,” Schoesler said.

“Both sides have compromised significantly,” Lytton said.

Other lawmakers who not involved in the negotiations are frustrated with the process, saying the last-minute push to get a budget passed has never felt so intense.

“Regretfully that’s the situation we are in. It’s not fair to the public and it’s not fair to my members,” said Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Seattle.

Nelson said many lawmakers are waiting to hear the exact details themselves.

“My members won’t see it till tomorrow so how it affects their districts, they don’t even know,” Nelson said.

Meaning the public will have even less time to weigh in.

“This should have been done two months ago, not in the last week before the fiscal cliff,” Nelson said.

Key negotiators worked until 1:30 a.m. Tusday and their staff slept in sleeping bags in the Capitol Monday night. Tuesday night is promising to be another late night.

If a new state budget is not passed by June 30 -- the end of the fiscal year -- the government will partially shut down.

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