OLYMPIA -- A deal to break the budget stalemate is reportedly close, but the real question could be whether there's enough time left in the special session to pass it, should negotiators reach agreement.
Budget negotiators were down to the nitty gritty in the operating budget, known as provisos, in the afternoon while legislative leaders were preparing for yet another meeting with Gov. Chris Gregoire.
"We're getting close," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said after running the gauntlet of television cameras outside the governor's office.
A few minutes earlier in the Senate wings, Brown said Democrats and Republicans seemed close to a "tentative deal" explaining "It's a good sing we're writing budget provisos."
Provisos are special instructions in a budget that direct spending on particular projects or programs.
But Brown acknowledged that the real problem is the clock. The special session will end at midnight tonight, and there is a question whether there is enough time to write, print and vote on the bills in both houses.
It would require agreement on all sides to waive certain rules that require waits for legislators to examine and propose amendments to bills, and wouldn't allow much time for debate.