State lawmakers optimistic budget deal can be reached

OLYMPIA - (AP) Washington legislative leaders indicate that a deal is near on a state budget.

Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp said there was a "good exchange" of budget offers in a meeting with Senate budget negotiators.

Republican Sen. Andy Hill said while the two sides have a couple sticking points, negotiators were not far apart and were continuing to come closer together.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said lawmakers could have an agreement in principle within the next day, with the expectation of completing work Sunday. He vowed that there would not be a government shutdown.

Without a budget deal, thousands of state employees could start receiving notice as early as Monday that they may be temporarily laid off on July 1. The governor's office says 34 state agencies would be completely shut down.

"It's a scare tactic being used by the Governor and the Democrats in the house, who are hiding behind the fact they have held this process up for two months simply because they want more taxes," said Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) in response to the warning of a shutdown by the governor's office.

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