Friends and Neighbors,
The Washington State House of Representatives has spent the last five days voting primarily on Senate bills. State representatives will be back on the House floor this weekend as we work toward opposite house cutoff on Sunday, the 91st day of the 105-day legislative session. This means all bills from the opposite chamber must pass or they are considered dead for the legislative session.
As this legislative web page states: “After 5:00 p.m. on the 91st day, only initiatives, alternatives to initiatives, budgets and matters necessary to implement budgets, matters that affect state revenue, messages pertaining to amendments, differences between the houses, and matters incident to the interim and closing of the session may be considered.” This gives you an idea of what to expect in the homestretch.
These items are only subject to the last deadline on the 2021 session cutoff calendar which is the final day of the 105-day legislative session: April 25.
Last Friday and Saturday, the House passed its 2021-23 operating, transportation and capital budgets. The Senate has also passed their respective versions of these two-year state spending plans. Budget writers from both chambers are now working out differences and will present the final proposal for each budget for both chambers to consider. You can learn more about these budgets here.
The operating budget is the largest of the three state budgets and pays for K-12 education, higher education, corrections, human services, and other state government operations. The House 2021-23 operating budget legislation (a striking amendment to Senate Bill 5092) passed on a party-line, 57-41 vote.
This proposal would spend $58.2 billion in state funds, an increase of $6.6 billion – or 12% – more than is spent in the current budget cycle. It would also spend another $7 billion in federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The proposal also assumes revenue from a new income tax on capital gains and new surcharge on recorded documents. Finally, it would move $1.8 billion from the Budget Stabilization Account (rainy-day fund) to a new account to avoid a future supermajority vote to appropriate the funds.
I voted “no” because this level of state spending is not sustainable, the Legislature does not need to raise taxes on anyone as our economy attempts to recover, and the maneuver to move funding from the Budget Stabilization Account is an end-around around the state constitution. I continue to support the House Republican operating budget proposal that was released on February 16.
The transportation budget funds capital projects, operating programs, and debt service. It is funded by motor vehicle tax revenues, license and registration fees, fares, and tolls. The 2021-23 House transportation budget (a striking amendment to Senate Bill 5165) passed on a mixed, 87-11 vote.
This plan assumes over $1 billion in federal funding, most of which will be allocated to backfill toll and fare reductions and to fund fish passage barrier removal. It would spend $10.9 billion for the state transportation system, including:
- $7.6 billion for Washington State Department of Transportation.
- $557 million for the Washington State Patrol.
- $371 million for the Department of Licensing.
- $224 million for Transportation Improvement Board.
- $104 million for the County Road Administration Board.
While these are large dollar amounts, this has been described as a “bare-bones” budget that reflects the fiscal reality of lost revenue over the last year due to COVID-related shutdowns. While I appreciate that this proposal included bipartisan input, I opposed it because it continues to collect and spend vehicle registration fees above the $30 car tabs which the voters demanded, but the courts rejected. Despite the court decision, the Legislature could – and should – have lived up to the demands of the voters who have three times demanded $30 car tabs.
The capital budget, often called the state construction budget, funds K-12 school construction, higher education facilities, mental and behavioral health, Public Works Assistance Account, housing, and community projects across the state. It is funded through general obligation bonds, dedicated cash accounts, federal dollars, and financing contracts. The 2021-23 House capital budget (House Bill 1080) passed on a unanimous, 98-0 vote.
This proposal would spend $5.7 billion, with $3.5 billion from the sale of general obligation bonds. It would leave $176 million in bond capacity for a supplement capital budget next year. Here are some of the projects that would be funded in the 20th Legislative District:
- $70 million for the Office of Chehalis Basin.
- $8.05 million for the Packwood sewer system.
- $3.55 million for the Lewis County PUD for a substation and transmission facility in Winlock.
- $2.55 million for a hydrogen fueling station in Chehalis.
- $2.25 million for a pedestrian overcrossing replacement in Kalama.
- $2.03 million for the Willapa Hills Trail Bridge (Adna, 19th and 20th Legislative Districts).
- $2 million for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library in Woodland.
- $1.85 million for the Vader Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements.
- $1.75 million for the Southwest Washington Grain Project in Chehalis.
- $1.529 million to the Centralia School District for the Gemini and LTE.
- $1.03 million for the Woodland Community Library.
- $824,000 for the Lewis County Youth Services renovation and addition in Chehalis.
- $515,000 for the Lake Lawrence Fire Station in Yelm.
- $300,000 for the Lewis County Seniors (Centralia) from the Building Communities Grant Fund.
- $283,000 for Werden Park in Vader.
- $259,000 for Mayme Shaddock Park in Napavine.
- $129,000 for the Lewis County public safety radio infrastructure in Chehalis.
- $123,000 for the Chehalis-Centralia locomotive repair (Chehalis).
- $52,000 for the Seminary Hill Natural and Heritage Trail Project in Centralia.
- $21,000 for Reliable Enterprises (Centralia) from the Building Communities Grant Fund.
- $14,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Lewis County (Chehalis) from the Youth Recreational Facilities Grant Program.
I am disappointed the House proposal did not adequately fund the Forest Riparian Easement Program (FREP) which helps compensate small forest landowners for the timber they must leave standing to protect fish habitat – compensation promised to these landowners when the Legislature passed a bill to create the larger timber buffers. I am also concerned the House did not include the Scott Hill Park request, though it is partially funded in the Senate proposal. I have been working with budget negotiators in an attempt to get both of these funded while still protecting funding for the projects listed above.
I hope the final capital budget that comes to the House floor includes the important local projects noted above.
Update: Income tax on capital gains
The income tax on capital gains legislation, Senate Bill 5096, has yet to move out of the House Finance Committee. However, since both the House and Senate operating budgets assume revenue from an income tax on capital gains, it is likely this tax soon will be advanced from committee and passed on the House floor. It will be greeted with vigorous Republican opposition at both stages. Please stay tuned.
With just 16 days left in the legislative session, several important issues will be decided in a short timeframe. I welcome your input as legislation is considered and decisions are made. Please feel free to email, call, or send me a letter. And I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible.