Rachel La Corte/AP Photo
OLYMPIA — As the clock ticks down on Washington state’s second overtime legislative session, House Democrats released their latest budget proposal Monday, a plan that doesn’t include any new taxes but looks for additional revenue through closing or limiting several tax exemptions.
If Washington state officials fail to pass a budget by June 30, the state will go into a partial shutdown starting July 1, a move that would partially close some departments and completely close others including state parks. This means popular state-owned camping and recreational areas like Cape Disappointment State Park could be closed for business just in time for the Fourth of July weekend.
Officials say they don’t believe a shutdown will occur, but they are still required to begin the process of notifying state employees of possible layoffs.
By month’s end, 12 permanent and 16 temporary employees at Cape Disappointment State Park could be temporarily out of work. Approximately 882 full-time and seasonal park employees would be out of work across the state. Meanwhile hundreds of people heading to the coast to camp over the Fourth of July weekend could be out of a camping site.
This week, Washington State Parks began to send out notifications to people with overnight reservations at all state parks. For the week of June 30 to July 8, that includes the 10,112 camping reservations for tent or RV and trailer spaces; the 421 bookings for cabins, yurts and vacation homes and the 102 group camp accommodations. These people who made these reservations will receive refunds and parks are looking at a total fiscal impact of about $1.9 million lost, according to Parks spokeswoman Toni Droscher.
They are also looking at decreased security if rangers are not around to manage the parks.
“There’s an expectation that there would be some vandalism and misuse because there won’t be anybody in place to provide protection,” Droscher said.
At Cape Disappointment, rangers patrol the park day and night. It is possible the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office could provide a degree of backup security if these rangers are laid off, especially along the beaches where deputies already routinely patrol, Sheriff Scott Johnson said.
Cape Disappointment also shares space with a Coast Guard station, which will not be affected by shutdowns, partial or complete, in Washington state.
The newest budget proposal from House Democrats comes days after Gov. Jay Inslee said that Democrats’ plan for a new capital gains tax was off the table. Inslee said tax exemptions should be the compromise that the House and Senate consider in order to reach a budget agreement quickly and avoid a partial government shutdown.
The House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing Monday afternoon on the basic underlying budget, and a committee vote on it was scheduled for Tuesday. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said in a written statement that the base budget would put more money into the state’s education system, as mandated by the state Supreme Court, and would pay for collective bargaining agreements and freeze tuition at state universities and colleges for one year.
This budget, however, is “designed to meet the very basic needs of the state and avoid a shutdown,” Sullivan said. If only that budget alone is passed, it “merely keeps the lights on for another two years,” he said.
Sullivan encouraged Senate Republicans to consider additional revenue from a secondary bill. That measure limits exemptions like the sales tax exemption for residents who live in states without a sales tax and repeals others, like the sales tax on bottled water and another on extracted fuel, to raise $356.5 million for the next two year budget to help pay for things like teacher raises and to increase spending on early learning and higher education.
That measure also was heard on Monday before the Appropriations Committee. House Democrats have also proposed a bill that would delay full implementation of a voter-approved initiative to reduce class sizes.
Sullivan, D-Covington, wrote that the plan is a “go-home compromise solution that both sides can be happy with.”
“Neither side gets everything they want, but both sides get something, and most important, will be doing right by the people of Washington,” he wrote.
A message left with Senate Republican leaders was not returned.
The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate have been locked in budget negotiations for several weeks. They are currently in a second overtime legislative session after adjourning both a regular 105-day legislative session and a 30-day special session without reaching a deal on a two-year operating budget that is expected to be about $38 billion. The special session ends Saturday.
A new two-year budget must be signed into law by midnight June 30 or else dozens of state agencies and other offices would completely or partially close and more than 26,000 workers would be furloughed, according to the state Office of Financial Management. Most of those workers will receive notices on Tuesday.
Washington state has never had a government shutdown. But the Legislature has taken its budget talks to the brink before, including two years ago, when Inslee signed a budget on June 30.