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Positive revenue news could break budget logjam in Olympia

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There’s suddenly a flurry of talk in Olympia about a quick resolution to the weeks-long budget stalemate. The change in rhetoric follows Tuesday’s positive revenue and caseload forecasts.

Budget writers will now have more than $300 million in additional funds to help bridge their differences, thanks to a recovering housing market and improved consumer confidence.

The House and the Senate have been locked in a partisan fight over whether to raise additional revenues by closing some tax exemptions. This new money could now fill that gap.

“I think it’s great news,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom who predicts a quick resolution to the budget. “Certainly with $320 million, there’s no excuse for us to get out of town.”

But Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget chief David Schumacher isn’t quite so optimistic.

“Is it the final piece? I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but we’re getting a lot closer,” he said.

There are still differences between the House and the Senate over how to spend the money. Ultimately, the goal is to close a $1 billion shortfall over the next two years and make a $1 billion down payment on a Supreme Court ruling that says Washington isn’t adequately funding public schools.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.