Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters this afternoon he is confident that a budget agreement is “imminent,” perhaps only hours away.
That improves the chances of avoiding a government shutdown, a threat that prompted state government to start notifying tens of thousands of workers about potential furloughs starting July 1 if there is no budget.
The Democratic governor said negotiations in the Legislature this morning took a turn for the better, clearing the way to fund public schools with an extra $1 billion to comply with the court ruling known as McCleary without slashing social services.
“This was a breakthrough moment that happened in the last few hours, that in my view was the key that can open this lock that has been separating the parties, and allow us to keep this ship of state afloat,” he said.
Reporters at the Capitol are used to hearing confident and optimistic predictions. Last time it was the Senate majority predicting a Sunday finish, which didn’t materialize. But Inslee insisted:
“In my discussions with the top leadership, they have amongst themselves found a path to be able to fulfill our resources for the McCleary decision of our down payment, and a path that will simultaneously not hurt the least amongst us. And that path, if it’s embraced by the rank-and-file members, will succeed. There’s a couple smaller items that need to be worked out by the negotiators, but there’s absolutely no reason that those couple items should not be able to be resolvable in short order.”
Lawmakers didn’t join Inslee at the news conference, but Republicans at least weren’t throwing cold water on his assertions afterward.
Sen. Joe Fain, the Senate Republican floor leader, said he shares the governor’s optimism.