OLYMPIA - Legislative Democrats began wrapping up a final agreement Wednesday night on roughly $4 billion in spending cuts to close a massive two-year budget deficit.
Lawmakers have been negotiating for days on a final budget deal, and have until Sunday to wrap up their scheduled 15-week session on time.
That appeared within reach Wednesday night, after negotiators reached an agreement on spending for K-12 education, colleges and universities, social services, prisons and more.
"Everything takes cuts, but our priorities are still intact," said House Ways and Means Chairwoman Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham.
Lawmakers have been wrestling with a $9 billion shortfall between projected state spending and tax revenue through mid-2011 - the largest deficit in some 25 years.
About $5 billion of the gap will be made up with one-time sources of money, including some $3 billion in stimulus spending and other federal bailouts. The balance is achieved by cutting the expected levels of spending during the 2009-2011 budget cycle.
Counting the major infusion of federal money, majority Democrats in the House and Senate originally proposed budgets of roughly $35 billion for the 2009-2011 fiscal years.
Without the influx of federal dollars, state spending actually would decrease by about $1 billion compared with the current two-year budget, which runs through June.
Still undecided was whether to ask voters for about $1.1 billion in higher sales tax revenue, which could be used to replenish some of the deepest cuts to health care services.
The No. 2 Democrat on the Senate budget committee, Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said he hoped the public would appreciate the Legislature's work to make difficult choices amid a lingering national recession.
"Out of a very tough budget, we made very rational decisions that will move Washington forward," Tom said.