Layoffs, closed parks, no lottery without a budget deal

OLYMPIA — As legislative leaders insisted Thursday that they are nearing agreement on a new state budget, the governor’s office offered a preview of what might occur if they fail and a partial government shutdown ensues.

State parks will close, the lottery will halt, and most convicted criminals will be monitored less closely outside prison walls if Washington is forced to cease many of its operations July 1.

Those are among the hundreds of programs and services which would be halted or scaled back, according to an analysis released by the Office of Financial Management.

In all, 34 state agencies would be completely shut down and 24 others would incur a partial cessation, said Mary Alice Heuschel, chief of staff for Gov. Jay Inslee. Twenty-five agencies would continue operating because they are funded wholly or in large part from sources other than the state’s general fund.

Meanwhile, the leader of the state Senate predicted the Legislature can be done Sunday, one day before layoff notices are sent to thousands of state workers.

“We are going to finish on Sunday and there will be absolutely no shutdown of state government,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who is a member of the Majority Coalition Caucus ruling the Senate.

Senate and House budget negotiators said Thursday they are making steady progress but are at least a day away from achieving an agreement in principle that can be written up and voted on. House Speaker Frank Chopp declined to say if he thought a budget could be passed by Sunday.

Planning for the shutdown won’t stop until the Legislature acts on a spending plan for the biennium that runs from July 1 though June 30, 2015.

Among those agencies that can expect to be shuttered include the Lottery Commission, Public Disclosure Commission and Liquor Control Board.

Washington’s largest agencies, such as the Department of Social and Health Services and Department of Corrections would curtail some activities while community colleges, universities and the court system will stay open.

Also, the Washington State Patrol and Washington State Ferries will operate because those are funded through the state transportation budget, which has been signed in law.

Only once before has the Legislature come this close to forcing a government shutdown. That occurred in 1991 when the House and Senate approved a budget early June 30 and Gov. Booth Gardner signed it shortly before midnight.

Here is a sample of what might happen:

•Most community supervision of ex-convicts would be halted;

Prisons would not accept new inmates;

Offenders in local or tribal jails for violating probation as of June 30 would be released;

Licensing and regulation of real estate brokers, home inspectors, barbers, cosmetologists and many other professions would be suspended;

The State Patrol would halt involvement in Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force;

No lottery tickets would be sold or drawings conducted;

Horse racing at Emerald Downs would be halted;

State parks would be closed and camping reservations for early July canceled.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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