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Washington state, Alaska enact budgets, preventing shutdowns

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The governors of Washington state and Alaska signed into law new operating budgets late on Friday, hours before deadlines that would have triggered a partial shutdown of government agencies.

In Washington state, the $43.7 billion two-year operating budget, which includes a $5.2 billion revenue increase paid for in part with new taxes, was approved by both chambers of the legislature earlier on Friday.

Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed the spending bill before midnight, preventing the closure of many state agencies and the layoff of thousands of employees.

He called the budget "a transformational investment in the future of our state" in a message on Twitter.

Apart from funding government operations, the budget adds about $1.8 billion in new funding for K-12 public schools over the next two years and promises $7.3 billion total over four years, according to a summary of the legislation.

It was not immediately clear whether the education funding increase would satisfy a 2012 order by the state's Supreme Court that found the state was failing to fully fund basic education in violation of its own constitution. The court gave lawmakers a deadline - the first day of school in 2018 - to lay out a credible plan to fix the problem.

The spending legislation was approved in the Senate 39-10 and in the House 70-23, according to the office of Senator Mike Padden, a Republican.

For specifics of the budget see: http://bit.ly/2taF0Li

Also on Friday, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed into law a new $4.9 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2018, avoiding a similar shutdown of government offices and services, his office said.

Lawmakers in Juneau agreed to pay down a $2.5 billion deficit entirely from savings, while also cutting spending on operations by $145 million from the previous fiscal year, Walker's office said.

The Legislature has been convening through special sessions to find a fix for the multi-billion dollar deficit before July 1, the start of Alaska's new fiscal year, in order to avoid shuttering government offices and services.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Leslie Adler)