OLYMPIA, Wash. — Three special legislative sessions later, and two days before a government shutdown, lawmakers agreed in principle Wednesday on a state budget.
After pulling an all-nighter, key negotiators in the Legislature settled on a tentative budget around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“They were bringing their sleeping bags yesterday because they knew they weren’t going home,” Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon said.
Now legislative staff members are racing against the clock -- they have just hours to compile hundreds of pages of the budget for viewing.
“A lot of eyes on that language, making sure there is no mistake,” Fitzgibbon said.
Details of the budget initially were expected to be released to the media and public at noon Thursday, but the AP reporter at the Capitol tweeted late Wednesday night, "Just heard that budget details won't be available publicly until tomorrow night at the earliest."
With the exception of key negotiators, most lawmakers were expected to learn what's in the budget deal at 10 a.m. Thursday.
It gives legislators little time to weigh in, and the public even less time, before Friday’s final vote by the House and Senate.
“Unfortunately, we will have a short window of time (in which) we can see that before we can vote on it to prevent a government shutdown,” Fitzgibbon said.
A new budget must be in place by midnight Friday, June 30 -- the end of the fiscal year -- or a partial government shutdown will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Lawmakers believe they have the votes in the House and the Senate to pass the budget, but state workers say they are still preparing for a government shutdown.
“We are going to assume there is a shutdown until we see details on Thursday and can be rest assured that the budget will be approved,” said Tim Welch with The Washington Federation of State Employees.
With 32,000 state employees already receiving layoff notices and government contractors in limbo, frustrated workers burned their pink slips Tuesday in protest of lawmakers failing to work fast enough. And teachers are equally frustrated.
“I’m nervous,” Seattle Education Association President Phyllis Campano said.
She's nervous about the education issue, because the majority of the budget involves complying with the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision that requires the Legislature to fully fund K-12.
Campano is wondering if the plan will comply with McCleary.
“Something should have come out so we could take a look at it,” Campano said.
She added that she is worried about funds being taken away from Seattle schools to make up for other school districts. But lawmakers say every district gets a boost.
“Every school district needs to receive more money than they currently do; some need a lot more, some need a small amount of increase to meet the needs of the kids,” Fitzgibbon said.
Then there's the question of how to pay for it.
Sources say some homeowners in particular areas may see their property taxes go up, or down, because of the education issue.
As for paying for education through capital gains and the carbon taxes, something many Democrats were pushing for, that did not make it into the final budget, sources say.