Secret budget, education talks down to the wire in Olympia

The Washington Legislature faces a Friday deadline on state budget and education negotiations. Much of their work has been done in secret: Citizens will get little time to review any agreement.

OLYMPIA — Rest those eyes, people: You’ll likely have little time to pore over the fine print of the two most important agreements coming out of the state Capitol this year.

Since late March, work on a two-year state budget and a school funding plan required by the state Supreme Court has gone on behind closed doors, directed by a handful of tight-lipped legislators.

The talks are a striking contrast to the budget negotiations of 2015, when each party publicly released detailed compromise proposals throughout the overtime sessions.

Lawmakers have until the end of Friday to pass a new budget and win Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature, or much of the state government will shut down beginning Saturday. More than 30,000 government workers have already been given layoff notices as agencies prepare to close.

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In addition, legislators are trying to reach a final agreement in the yearslong quest to fulfill the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which declared Washington was violating its own Constitution by underfunding the K-12 school system.

Legislators are also engaged in closed-door negotiations over a proposed paid family leave program for private-sector workers and bills to address rural water use.

The budget and McCleary negotiations involve billions of taxpayer dollars, discussions about new revenue, and reviews of existing government policy and programs.

As of Monday afternoon, no agreement had been publicly announced on either plan.

“We know that negotiators met all weekend and have been working hard to get this done,” Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee wrote in an email Monday.

Once a deal is reached, it will take a couple days to iron out details and draft the…

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