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Washington lawmakers must move swiftly to pass state budget to avoid government shutdown


OLYMPIA, Washington — Washington lawmakers are expected to start voting Monday on a $38.2 billion two-year state operating budget a day before a deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.

Rep. Ross Hunter, the House's Democratic budget writer, said he hoped the budget would pass in both chambers by late Monday night. "Time is of the essence," he said.

Full details of the budget were released publicly Monday afternoon. The bipartisan agreement spends an estimated $1.3 billion on K-12 basic education, and it phases in tuition cuts at the state's universities, as well as community and technical colleges. By the end of the second year of the budget, the state will reduce the cost of tuition at the University of Washington and Washington State University by 15 percent, the remaining four-year universities will see a 20 percent cut, and tuition at community and technical colleges the state's colleges and universities and community colleges will get a 5 percent cut.

The budget also fully pays for collective bargaining agreements for state employees and raises for teachers, as well as puts more money into the state's mental health system and other social service programs.

The Legislature is in the midst of a third overtime session. A new two-year budget must be signed by Gov. Jay Inslee by midnight Tuesday to prevent dozens of state agencies and other offices from closing completely or partially. Thousands of state workers have already received notice that they would be temporarily laid off starting Wednesday if a budget isn't adopted in time.

Lawmakers had struggled for months on the two-year state budget because of differing ideas on how to address a state Supreme Court mandate to put more money into the state's basic education system.

Meanwhile, transportation leaders say they have reached agreement on a transportation revenue package that would include an 11.9 cent incremental increase in the gas tax. A vote on that budget was also expected Monday night.

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