House Democrats offer revised budget proposal; government to shut down at end of month if no deal

OLYMPIA -- Washington is in the middle of a budget crisis. If lawmakers don’t find a compromise by the end of the month, government services will shut down and workers will be laid off.

The Legislature began a second special session last Friday in an effort to pass a budget, and budget negotiators were to sit down together to try to work out a compromise.

On Monday, the House Democrats revealed their revised budget proposal.

“When you look at this proposal, it is a substantial compromise from our original budget,” said state House majority leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

The House Democratic plan would reduce spending by $450 million. But it also calls  for a state tax on capital gains that would generate money for education and mental health. The Senate Republicans don't want the tax.

“We actually need them to take all their taxes off because we don’t need them,” state Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said.

The Democrats are loathe to remove the tax proposal, however,

“We have the most unfair and economically inefficient tax system in the entire country,” state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said.

The disagreement means state workers such as Brian Yearout with Washington State Parks & Recreation may be facing temporary layoffs on June 30, the end of the state fiscal year.

“We will have to start notifying people in the next couple of weeks that government may shut down,” Yearout said.

Departments deemed nonessential such as state parks and the lottery could face a full shutdown. State Patrol and the Department of Corrections could see a partial shutdown. With so much at stake, many are hoping the budget crisis comes to an end.

“You can imagine people coming in for reservations for Fourth of July weekend and all of a sudden parks are closed, so it’s a big deal,” Yearout said.

But Gov. Jay Inslee is confident the state will reach an agreement.

After mediating the budget talks behind closed doors on Monday, Inslee played a quick round of basketball with a group of students from Edmonds.

“Seeing these young athletes in action reminds me why we need to finish our budget this year and get a good program to fund our schools; we are confident we are going to do that,” Inslee said.

But there is still a $700 million gap to bridge between the Democrats' and Republicans' budget plans.

"Can we bridge that in the next couple of weeks? We can if we want to come to some type of an agreement, we are open to that,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

“The thing is when you have a half a billion dollars (in new revenue) come in the last two months and a $1.1 billion since January, it’s really hard to make that argument to voters that you need more money,” Hill said.

Republicans say programs such as education and mental health can be fully funded with the money the state already has. The Democrats say Republicans are relying too heavily on the $1.1 billion expected to pour in for the state in the next four years due to recreational pot.