Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I'm pleased to share that the Legislature has adjourned for the 2016 session. The Legislature required a special session, but the modifications to the budgets have now been approved. As you may know, the Legislature approves two-year state budgets. The two-year budgets approved in 2015 address funding for fiscal years 2015-2017. The Legislature will likely not reconvene again until January 2017 to develop the budgets for 2017-2019.
As can be expected, there were major “differences of opinion” on this year's modifications to the existing budgets, commonly referred to as “supplemental” budgets. I favored minor adjustments. Some legislators here in Olympia had other ideas, which included increasing spending for the remainder of the 2015-2017 biennium and making transfers from an important reserve account. This approach would have left us with less in savings and made budgeting in future years much more challenging.
The original House-approved supplemental budget, which I voted against on February 25, proposed to utilize nearly $470 million from the state's Budget Stabilization Account. This account, approved by voters in 2007, grows gradually as the state experiences “extraordinary revenue growth” during good economic years and is intended – in my opinion – to be utilized for emergency purposes. Fortunately, this original version did not advance.
The final budget approved in the special session this week, which I voted for, did not unnecessarily leverage the Budget Stabilization Account. The budget the Legislature just approved utilizes $190 million from this account for wildfire-related costs and reimbursements. The wildfires were indeed a state emergency and occurred last summer after the existing 2015-2017 budget had been approved. Our fire emergencies justify both the need for modifications to the existing budget and some additional spending.
2016 Supplemental Operating Budget
• $38.4 billion two-year budget ($190 million increase)
• $577 million projected ending fund balance
• $701 million projected Budget Stabilization Account ending balance
• $41 million for mental health investments
• $5.2 million for teacher recruitment and shortages
• $31 million for higher education
• More information on House Bill 2376 – click here
I am also pleased to share that this week's vote on the Capital Budget provided some much-needed supplemental funding for infrastructure projects supported by me and my fellow 12th District legislators. These projects provide assistance to areas impacted by the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire as well as new design funds for a potential emergency operations center in Chelan County.
2016 Supplemental Capital Budget
• $1.1 million for Phase 2 Pateros Water System
• $1.84 million Phase 1 funding was provided in the 2015 budget
• $500,000 for Phase 2 Twisp Civic Center/Emergency Response Facility
• $500,000 Phase 1 funding was provided in the 2015 budget
• $209,000 for Phase 1 Chelan County Emergency Operations Center
• More information on House Bill 2380 – click here
Historic Veto Overrides
In order for bills to become law, they must pass the House and Senate and then be signed into law by the Governor. The Governor also has the option to veto bills, which is usually a deathblow for any legislation. As you may have heard, Governor Inslee vetoed 27 bills on March 11 in response to the Legislature not yet agreeing on modifications for the two-year budgets. This disappointed and angered many of the legislators who worked hard to pass their various policy bills. Once the two-year budget agreements were reached, the Legislature decided to pursue overriding those 27 vetoes. Bills vetoed by the Governor can only be overridden with a two-thirds vote in both chambers – House and Senate. While the Legislature took this action with the Governor's support, it is a highly unusual step in the legislative process…and an interesting civics lesson as well.
Signing Off from Olympia!
I work hard to represent you and to be your voice at the Capitol. As legislators, we are not perfect and don't always get things right, but I believe the final budgets approved this week are good for our district and much improved over the previous versions presented.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!
122G Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7832 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000