Friends and Neighbors,
We have just concluded the third week of the 105-day legislative session. I want to take a few minutes to provide you with an outline of the on-going budget process in the Legislature.
The two-year budget cycle
The state enacts budgets on a two-year cycle, called a biennium. Odd-numbered years are called the 'budget years,' in which these budgets are originally written and passed. Often, these budgets are modified in even numbered years, which is a shorter 60-day session. These are referred to as supplemental budgets. Our budgets will begin on July 1, 2017 and run through June 30, 2019. That gives us a chance for a supplemental in 2018 and 2019. This means the Legislature is in a constant process of approving and amending budgets throughout the entire biennium.
Washington state's budgeting process
The state budget should be the fiscal choices which embody the priorities and preferences of the people. Simply put, a budget is a balancing of expenditures with the revenues we receive. But, we must also balance budgets across competing programs and across multiple biennia. The state budget directly affects how much money is spent on state agencies, services and infrastructure. They detail how resources are distributed to agencies, programs, and services like education, transportation and healthcare. All of which are all carefully examined during this budget process.
The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is made up of representatives from both the legislative and executive branches. They provide forecasts of our revenue, after consulting economists about expected national and state economic activity. This work helps determine the financial resources available to support any proposed budget.
In the first stages of the budget process, state agencies analyze their programs to determine current and future financial needs. The governor's office evaluates these funding requests in accordance with his policy priorities. He then submits a statewide budget proposal to the state Legislature. Often, legislators use his budget as a starting point in developing House and Senate proposals, which can ultimately differ from the governor's proposal. These proposals are introduced and sent to committees so members in both chambers can debate and amend the provisions in the proposed budgets, as well as be amended and debated by the full House and Senate. Once budgets are agreed to and passed by the House and Senate, they are sent to the governor for signature.
The three components of state's budget
The operating budget provides for the daily operating expenses of the state, including K-12 and higher education, health and human services, and public safety.
The capital budget is often called the “brick and mortar” budget because it pays for public facilities, including the construction of college, prison and of state agency buildings. This budget invests in many infrastructure improvement projects throughout our state. It includes some matching funds for K-12 school construction, as well as loans to local governments for sewers, parks and other uses, and money for environmental cleanup, fish habitat improvements, etc.
The transportation budget provides for the maintenance, preservation and operation of the state's highways, bridges, and ferries. This budget funds the day-to-day operations of the transportation system. This budget incorporates revenue from all transportation tax packages to fund new projects. It also funds the Washington State Patrol, the Department of Licensing, and the Department of Transportation.
Click here, or on the picture, to watch my legislative update video on the budget.
The levy cliff bill
It is unfortunate that with a 62-35 vote, a proposal many call the “levy cliff fix,” was the first bill to pass the full House this session. The bill would create a further delay in finding a solution to McCleary. School districts do need certainty. But, until we have a budget with a solution for McCleary, passed by both chambers and sent to the governor's desk, they will not have any certainty. This bill will allow the Legislature to extend its own deadlines for passing budgets and bills. And, it will make it easier – and more likely – to extend session beyond the 105-days allotted.
Click here, or on the picture, to watch my floor speech on the levy cliff bill.
As always, I appreciate hearing from you. If you have concerns, comments or need help dealing with a state agency, please feel free to send me an email or call me at (360) 786-7990.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.