Washington State Legislature
8:05 am
Fri February 11, 2011

One month down, lots of work ahead on budget

Washington's legislature has hit the one-month mark. Budget writers say a deal is close at hand between the House and Senate to re-balance the current two-year spending plan. After that, attention will shift to the closing a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the next two-year budget.

At this stage in the legislative session it's a lot of public hearings and a lot of rallies on the steps of the capitol, like the one yesterday denouncing the governor's proposed cuts to Washington's pre-kindergarten program. But the real decision-making is happening behind the scenes.

House Budget Chair Ross Hunter describes negotiations on the supplemental budget:

"We've sent several offers back and forth with the Senate."

That's Olympia-speak for an amendment to the current spending plan.

In a normal year this would be pretty pro forma. Hunter says lawmakers might have to approve some extra money for – say - summer firefighting costs. But this year, there's a major shortfall:

"This is a big change. Reducing the budget problem by $600 million."

Hunter acknowledges it's a distraction from the bigger problem – an estimated $4.6 billion hole in the next two-year budget.