In Olympia, Democrats and Republicans are close to a compromise on what the overall spending level of government will be.
OLYMPIA — Before state lawmakers negotiate the details of the state’s 2015-17 operating budget, they must first agree on how much, overall, the government will spend.
Yes, a few weeks from the possibility of a partial government shutdown, that’s the conversation.
Now, after daily meetings this week hosted by the governor during the second special legislative session, Democrats and Republicans are close to a compromise on that number, according to David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management.
“They got really close to the same number,” Schumacher said after Thursday morning’s budget meeting. “I mean, close enough that it’s optimistic.”
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But, “They’re not quite there.”
The two parties — which have had daily morning meetings this week in the office of Gov. Jay Inslee — met again Thursday afternoon, but no additional progress was announced after that gathering.
Once the two parties agree on the spending number, then “you’ve got like several days of budget negotiations,” Schumacher said.
That’s where lawmakers will determine how to fund education, social services and other programs.
Lawmakers themselves aren’t talking much about the progress of negotiations or at all about specifics.
In recently released updates to their budget plans, House Democrats and Senate Republicans have moved closer toward each others’ positions. Democrats have cut spending from their original proposal and have called for less new tax revenue. Republicans, aided by higher projected revenue through 2017 from existing taxes, have increased spending and filled some holes in their budget that drew objections from Democrats.
Once a spending level is set that both sides can agree on, conversations will begin on whether new revenue might be needed to reach that number, according to Schumacher.