PHOENIX - Another Western state is staring down the prospect of a government shutdown, as Washington State lawmakers are still unable to come to an agreement on education funding before a new budget year starts July 1.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has begun warning that a government shutdown is becoming a possibility if the legislature doesn’t pass a budget very soon, echoing the alarm sounded by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker last week. Inslee has already called two 30-day special sessions to give lawmakers more time to come to a consensus, but the deadline is now fast approaching without a deal in place.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Bloomberg

Washington is operating under a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling mandating that the state fully fund its basic education system and have a plan in place to do so by the 2017-2018 school year, and that is a key part of the work remaining. A bipartisan state task force convened last year met for months leading up to the start of the regular legislative session in January of this year, but deadlocked along party lines and didn’t adopt any recommendations. Democrats have supported a capital gains tax-heavy approach, while Republicans have backed a property tax-based plan.

Inslee said late Monday that the pace of legislative negotiations is unlikely to result in a deal before the second special session expires next week. Inslee said he told legislative leaders that they would not get another special session to hammer the deal out, and that they needed to get to work in earnest immediately.

“If there was an easy way to do this, indeed, it would have been done already,” Inslee said. “Because of their delay I have a job to do,” Inslee said, telling media that he is in the process of notifying government agencies of the steps they may have to take in the event of a budget not being in place July 1.

Inslee said he still believes it won’t come to that, but that he needs to prepare. In the event of a shutdown, many government agencies would likely function at only the most basic level or cease to operate at all. Construction projects could halt, road maintenance could suffer, and state government assistance to local governments could be impacted. Inslee said the stakes are high, and that even a small setback in negotiations could now be disastrous.

“One small glitch could put us into a shutdown,” he said

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