The Washington state legislative Class of 2017 is headed for a cram session.
And while it is no surprise, it is still frustrating.
Lawmakers have had since January to hammer out a $40 billion budget, as well as come up with a Supreme Court-ordered school funding plan.
But they have yet to finish their assignment — even with two extended deadlines. If they don’t get the job done within the week, the state will have no legal authority to spend money.
That means a government shutdown of services beginning July 1.
The state Office of Financial Management has been working on contingency plans with state agencies just in case that’s what happens.
If lawmakers don’t soon finish the job they were sent to Olympia to do, thousands of Washington residents will be left disappointed, annoyed, angry or hurting.
For starters, those who planned on camping at a state park for the long Fourth of July weekend will have to re-think their plans.
Officials at OFM estimate nearly 11,000 paid camping and overnight reservations will have to be canceled if state parks close because lawmakers failed to finalize a state budget in time. The state could lose at least $2 million in park revenue between June 30 and July 7 if that happens.
The state Office of Financial Management estimates nearly 11,000 paid camping and overnight reservations will have to be canceled if state parks close because lawmakers failed to finalize a state budget in time. That would cost the state at least $2 million in park revenue between June 30 and July 7.
There also is the possibility of more than 50,000 elderly residents having to go without their meal service from the state Aging and Long-term Support Administration.
If the government shuts down, expect processing tasks at the Department of Licensing to be delayed, work at the state crime labs to halt and worker compensation claims at the Department of Labor and Industries to be put on hold.
Hunting and fishing licenses would not be issued. Veteran services provided by the state would be disrupted, and nearly 4,100 low-income people could lose help with their June utility payments.
We could go on and on. A full list of impacts from a government shutdown can be found at the OFM website — and it is unsettling.
With a Republican-led Senate and a Democrat-controlled House, we all knew negotiations this session would be tough. But that is no excuse for waiting until the final hour to craft a state budget.
A compromise should have been worked out long before now so the public might have a chance to review it. As it looks now, if a budget does get pushed through there will be little time for anyone to study it.
That isn’t how lawmakers should operate, but it has become the standard the past several years.
Lawmakers took the state to the brink of closure in both 2013 and 2015. It is exasperating to see political posturing get in the way of legislating biennium after biennium.
In addition to the state budget, lawmakers also are under pressure this session to set up a new school funding plan.
Legislators delayed complying with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision for years, but can’t put it off any longer if they are going to meet the court’s deadline.
Local tax money from school levies has been used to make up for the state’s inability to comply with its constitutional duty to amply fund K-12 education.
This inequitable system left students in poorer communities without the same resources as students in more affluent ones, and the court said the state must rectify that.
This monumental task just adds another layer of discord between Republicans and Democrats.
At this point, though, Washington state residents are tired of the finger-pointing.
Lawmakers have had time enough to do their job. This week is it.