OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington lawmakers reached a long-sought accord on a new state budget Thursday and hurried to schedule votes that would avert a state government shutdown.
Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news conference, flanked by lawmakers from both parties, that the Legislature is hoping to approve the measure before state employees leave work Friday. Political leaders declined to discuss details of the plan and declined to make the $33.6 billion spending proposal available for public review.
"The deal reached today makes it clear that state government will continue to operate," Inlsee said.
Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter, the top negotiator in the House, said he and Republican Sen. Andy Hill finalized the new spending plan Thursday morning and shook hands on an agreement. He declined to discuss details of the final plan until he could brief his colleagues.
Lawmakers were supposed to complete their work on the two-year operating budget in April but have been quarreling for weeks over a variety of tax and policy proposals.
"It's been a long six months," Hunter said.
Hill said the final plan puts an additional $ 1 billion toward the state's basic education system in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that determined lawmakers weren't adequately funding schools. He also said it provides no tuition increases over two years.
"There's still a lot of work to be done and I won't stop until the plan is approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but I'm pleased that we were able to work together in good faith to find a compromise while still holding firm to prioritize the education of more than a million students statewide," Hill said in a statement.
Much of state government would shut down -- and more than 25,000 workers would be temporarily laid off -- if the Legislature fails to approve the new budget by Monday, and political leaders believe it's particularly important to finalize the plan before state employees leave work for the weekend.
Washington state has never had a government shutdown but the Legislature has worked close to the end of the fiscal period before. In 2001, lawmakers finished the budget on June 20; in 1991 then-Gov. Booth Gardner signed a budget just moments before midnight on June 30.
This year, a new Senate majority controlled by Republicans and two conservative Democrats pushed a no-tax message and policies that would overhaul government rules to aid businesses. Democrats who control the House and Gov. Jay Inslee have pressed for more tax revenue and opposed many of the Senate policy plans.