Countdown continues: Lack of budget progress raises shutdown concerns

The Spokesman-Review editorial lead says it well.

With a potential shutdown of Washington government less than two weeks away, all is quiet on the budget front.

It’s like those old mysteries where someone says, “It’s quiet, too quiet.” Then you know something bad is going to happen. We know what will happen if it stays quiet. From the editorial:

Absent a budget to carry Washington into a fiscal year that starts July 1, state government will have to shut down nonessential services – parks, for example – just before the July 4 weekend.

Some contractors and vendors have already received notice their work for the state must cease June 30. State employees will begin to get their notices next week.

According to Crosscut, about half of the state’s 50,000 employees would receive layoff notices.

In a story describing how transportation talks have been suspended pending resolution of the budget dispute, Joseph O’Sullivan reports little optimism from some key negotiators.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said Wednesday that there hasn’t been much progress in the budget talks.

“I don’t think anyone can at this stage be anything other than incredibly somber and concerned and deeply troubled by the direction that the discussions are going,” Carlyle said.

Still, Crosscut’s John Stang reports,

“The governor remains optimistic that there will not be a government shutdown,” Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said Thursday prior to a press briefing on the mechanics of a shutdown.

 O’Sullivan writes that House Democrats continue to prefer a capital gains tax, but are open to alternatives. Republicans have repeatedly said no new revenues are required.

Washington Research Council president Lew Moore has a useful review of how the impasse developed and of issues requiring resolution. Also at the WRC, a post from Emily Makings on a Seattle poll finding that transportation is the top priority; rent control barely registers.

Let’s close with what we might call tempered optimism. From the Associated Press:

David Schumacher, director of the state’s Office of Financial Management, wouldn’t discuss specifics of the ongoing budget talks, other than to say that he thinks it’s likely that letters will be sent Tuesday because it would be “wildly optimistic” to think there’d be a budget deal by then.

But he echoed the governor’s optimism that a shutdown will not occur.

“We have plenty of time to get our work done before the public needs to be concerned,” Schumacher said.

Let’s hope so.