Washington is just one week away from a government shutdown.
Legislators from both parties said Sunday they still were searching for a final budget compromise that would avert the temporary layoff of many state workers. Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle said negotiators are making consistent and meaningful progress but that they are still lacking agreement on some “central” policy and financial issues.
Republican Rep. Gary Alexander said he expected a deal would come together by the end of the day Monday, with hopes of passing the budget by the middle of the week.
“I didn’t expect a shutdown from day one, and I don’t expect one now,” Alexander said.
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The state’s current two-year budget comes to a close at the end of June, and the state believes 34 agencies will have to completely cease operations if there is no new spending plan. Another 24 agencies would face partial shutdowns and 25 would remain open.
Lawmakers have been struggling to shape a final budget since the beginning of the year, and they’re now well past a mid-April end of the regular legislative session.
Budget negotiators have declined to discuss the specifics of their disagreement, citing ongoing discussions that involve a constant exchange of proposals. However, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said the biggest lingering disagreement centers around how much money to spend on education.
Tom, a conservative Democrat who leads a Senate majority dominated by Republicans, said his caucus wants specific funding levels for education and higher education while House Democrats are looking to have some of that education money in social services programs.
Tom had previously predicted that the Senate would complete its work by Sunday. He expressed optimism about the ongoing budget talks but also expressed disappointment that the talks weren’t moving at a faster pace.
“I think we failed for not getting done today,” Tom said.