At a 2:30 press conference today, a noticeably cheerful Gov. Jay Inslee, while not announcing a budget deal and also acknowledging that he "by law" had to send out temporary layoff notices to thousands of state employees, said that "in the last few hours there have been very significant breakthroughs" toward a budget deal.
He said the breakthroughs meant a deal would happen "in the next few hours."
"An agreement is imminent," Inslee said. "The risk of government shutdown right now is substantially less than it was this morning."
He would not say whether the senate Republicans had signed off on the house Democrats' demand to close a tax loophole for telcom companies. However, with a non-budget policy bill, a Republican push for business-friendly workers' comp changes, off the table, the GOP's decision on the $109 million telecom loophole was the only outstanding issue.
"This is the first time I’ve said there has been very substantial breakthrough. We’ll get a good deal very shortly."—Gov. Inslee
Asked if Washington business would be disappointed that its supposed top priority (as the Republicans had pitched workers' comp) wasn't happening, Inslee told reporters that Washington businesses' top priorities were a trained workforce, i.e., education funding, and transportation funding.
Inslee said after the budget deal is finalized he will push for legislators to agree on a transportation package. (The current transportation proposal is a 10-cent gas tax over 10 years for $8.4 billion in major projects.)
Inslee said it would still take a few days to get the budget bill to his desk, and he acknowledged that the top budget negotiators from both the Republican-dominated senate and the Democratic house hadn't formally inked a deal, but said there was a key "moment" today that "unlocked" a deal.
Explaining why today's optimisism was different than some of previous sanguine remarks, he said: "This is the first time I’ve said there has been very substantial breakthrough. We’ll get a good deal very shortly. The top leadership, among themselves, have found a path forward to fulfill our obligations. That path, if embraced by the rank and file members, will succeed." He said there were some small items to work out, adding: "There's absolutely no reason why those couple items will not be fulfilled in short order."
Shelving the anti-senate (GOP) rhetoric he'd bein using lately, Inslee said "both sides" had tried to leverage policy bills against the budget throughout this year's frustrating session, but said both sides had relented and could walk away knowing they'd "both done good work."