OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee might be the latest player in the state's budget drama to offer an overly optimistic prediction of a possible conclusion.
Legislative sources said late Monday afternoon it seemed unlikely a handshake over a budget agreement would come by Monday night. Although some of the biggest hurdles have been jumped, some smaller details still had to be worked out, and that was pointing to a Tuesday announcement, at the earliest.
At a mid-afternoon press conference, Inslee was there was "a very, very good chance in the next few hours for an agreement." He also seemed to describe a deal as imminent -- but come to think of it, what he really meant was the deal is eminent, which is to say "outstanding."
Or maybe imminent could be stretched to mean the next day, considering how long negotiations have been going. It's not quite so definitive as last week's "we should be done and out of here by Sunday" prediction from the Majority Coalition that controls the Senate.
Legislative leaders had "found a path" to the deal, Inslee said. He wouldn't describe what allowed them to the path, and what it was paved with, other than to say it was "something significant that I won't be able to share with you."
He was going to respect the confidentiality of the budget negotiating process. And why not? The process of conducting budget talks in secret has been working so well for them over the last two-plus months.
But sources close to the negotiations say at least part of the breakthrough involves an agreement to pass a change in telecommunications taxes that equalizes the sales tax for companies that provide land line service and those that provide cellular service; the state is facing litigation if it doesn't do that.
Revenue from what is generally know as the Telcom fix would allow additional spending on public schools to hit $1 billion -- a major goal of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus -- rather than some slightly lesser amount the House Democrats were budgeting.
So what do caucus coalition members get for swallowing Telcom? Not clear yet, but one source hinted it could be a change in tax law that is heavily favored by the Association of Washington Business, which changes the tax rules on for something known as "paymaster services", a way of setting up an umbrella company to handle the payroll of several smaller companies with the same owners. This might not be a particularly heavy lift because the House and Senate versions of that bill have bipartisan sponsorship.
Time will tell whether that's the last yellow brick that will let them ease on down the road, and out of town. But it would be wrong to play the old Chamber's Brothers song, "Time Has Come Today" yet.