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State budget talks heat up, gov't shutdown details emerge

Rachel La Corte
Associated Press

The push is on to reach a final budget deal in Olympia. Top legislative leaders met Thursday in an attempt to bridge their final differences.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what a government shutdown on July 1 would look like if no agreement is reached.

The governor’s office says without a new budget, 34 state agencies and commissions would completely shut down on July 1. Another 24 would partially shutter. On the closure list: state parks, the lottery, and some mental health services.

At the Department of Corrections, the prisons would stay open but community supervision of Washington offenders would cease. On the medical side, state funding for dialysis patients would end.

“This absolutely is the last thing the governor or any of us want to happen,” said Mary Alice Heuschel, chief of staff to the governor. “He is doing everything in his power to help legislators find agreement.”

At the Capitol, Republican and Democratic budget negotiators are exchanging offers. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, a Democrat, says progress is being made.

“We’re working very hard to make sure we get this job done as soon as possible,” said Chopp.

The Senate majority says there is no reason things can’t be wrapped up by Sunday. Monday is when lay-off notices will go out to thousands of state employees.

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.