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Deal or No Deal? 

Washington lawmakers race to finalize a budget; plus, closure in the Creach case?

click to enlarge Wayne Scott Creach
  • Wayne Scott Creach

Time Running Out

The clock is ticking as Washington lawmakers scramble to pass a two-year operating and capital budget before the fiscal year ends on Sunday. If they miss the deadline, about 26,000 government workers would be temporarily laid off beginning on July 1. Thirty-four public agencies would suspend all operations while hundreds of other services and programs would drastically cut back.

At a press conference on Monday, an optimistic Gov. Jay Inslee insisted a bipartisan budget deal was on the horizon.

“This was a breakthrough moment that happened in the last few hours, that in my view was the key that can open this lock that has been separating the parties, and allow us to keep this ship of state afloat,” Inslee told reporters.

But by Tuesday morning, a budget deal failed to materialize.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, says the deadlock between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-run House has ended.

“What changed this week is it feels like both sides are moving toward a compromise,” he says. “It takes a long time to get 50 representatives, 25 senators and a governor to all agree on a package they feel is responsible. … But deadlines are good motivators, and we have a hard deadline at the end of the week.”

According to the Associated Press, negotiators in Olympia have agreed on “large components” of the new state budget and are now hammering out the details. But even after an agreement is reached, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, says it typically takes at least 40 hours to draft and finalize a budget plan.

— DEANNA PAN

Unanswered Questions

Family members of a Spokane Valley pastor shot and killed by a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy in 2010 hope a $2 million settlement will open a new dialogue on law enforcement’s use of force and safety protocols.

Spokane Deputy Brian Hirzel shot Rev. Wayne Scott Creach, 74, during a late-night confrontation outside Creach’s home on Aug. 25, 2010. Creach was carrying a handgun as he went to check a suspicious vehicle in his driveway, which was actually Hirzel’s unmarked patrol car.

All parties agreed to a $2 million settlement last week after a federal judge dismissed the county and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich from a pending lawsuit. Creach’s son, Alan, says he hopes the resolution will bring renewed awareness and discussion on police procedures.

“Why is there an unmarked police car being used as a patrol car?” Alan Creach asks. “Who gave [the deputy] the right or the authority to go on our property?”

Creach says his father’s death leaves many other unanswered questions. While the money can’t replace his father, he says he hopes it will get the attention of local law enforcement agencies.

Knezovich called the settlement offer from the county’s insurance company a “huge mistake,” saying he would have preferred the case go to trial.

“All the facts would have come out at that point,” he says, noting the U.S. Attorney’s Office has reviewed the internal investigation without finding any wrongdoing.

Knezovich says he has tried to work with the family to address any concerns. While the lawsuit limited their communication for a time, he says he remains open to a new dialogue.

“I’ve always been open to having honest discussion,” he says.

— JACOB JONES

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