There’s word Thursday morning that party leaders in the House and Senate are nearing agreement on how much to spend in the next state budget.
The budget director for Gov. Jay Inslee said lawmakers are “getting pretty close” and could possibly hit this milestone today.
“They’re not quite there,” said David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management following a 20-minute meeting of lawmakers and the governor. “It is always the hardest part of the process.”
Leaders and budget writers of the Democratic and Republican caucuses have met daily this week with Inslee to discuss a new two-year budget to take effect July 1. If one is not adopted by the end of the month, some state services and programs will be curtailed or halted.
Settling on a level of spending – known amongst Olympia insiders as the “size of the box” – is the pivotal decision that’s eluded lawmakers for 140 days of regular and special sessions. As the week began, House Democrats and Senate Republicans – who hold the majority in their respective chamber – were at least $500 million apart.
“The thing that’s stopped them dead in the water for the whole special session was not having the size of the box or the spending level set so that every budget offer that goes back and forth adds up to that same number,” Schumacher said.
Once a level is agreed upon, House Democrats and Senate Republicans can more easily decide how to spend the money and what policies to pursue.
And at that point the daily meetings may stop, Schumacher said. The governor has been acting as a referee as the majority parties worked to set a spending level. Now, he’ll want to make sure his priorities are considered as the pieces of a final budget are put in place, Schumacher said.