2022 Washington Legislature, Day 44 of 60
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OLYMPIA, Feb. 22 — Welcome to a post-holiday edition. We are reading budgets and marking the return of Potato Day.
House and Senate Democrats wheeled out supplemental spending proposals Monday that are unprecedented in their sum and scope.
Collectively, they cover 1,530 pages — 782 in House Bill 1816 and 748 pages in Senate Bill 5693 — and each adds roughly $6 billion in new spending to the $59 billion two-year budget passed last April.
Where they agree
• Transportation: Both budgets make a one-time $2 billion transfer from the general fund into the multimodal account of the transportation budget. Those dollars won’t all be spent right away. Some will get used in a proposed 16-year transportation package.
• Paid family leave bailout: There’s $397 million penciled into the House plan, and $350 million in the Senate’s, to keep the state paid family leave program solvent through June 30, 2023. Back in December, Gov. Jay Inslee earmarked $82 million in his supplemental budget to keep the program afloat. The problem’s much worse now.
• State employee raises: Money is provided for a 3.25% pay hike for state workers on July 1, per a collective bargaining agreement. Most of them also will get a one-time, lump-sum payment of $3,400 under the deal. The tab for wages and benefits is $232 million in the Senate budget, $276 million in the House’s.
Three things the Senate wants
• $1.5 billion deposited in a new reserve account to continue activities that were begun or expanded with federal COVID-19 relief.
• $500 million for really large information technology projects for state agencies. One example is a long-overdue shift to electronic medical records of those housed in state correctional facilities.
• $200,000 to establish a work group to study and make recommendations regarding the potential legalization of the sale of psilocybin to adults.
Three things the House wants
• $300 million for creation of the Washington Student Loan Program to provide 1% interest loans to eligible college students.
• $200 million of federal COVID aid for grants to hard-hit businesses in the hospitality industry.
• $172 million to offset revenue lost by state and local governments by waiving sales tax on most purchases under $1,000 next Labor Day weekend.
A proposed 6 cent tax on fuel exports isn’t sitting well with governors of neighboring states.
Here’s what they said on Twitter recently.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown: “I spoke with @GovInslee today and made very clear that Washington taking unilateral action to increase gas prices for Oregon families and businesses is unacceptable.”
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy: “Washington State is currently debating a tax that targets Alaska’s fuel costs. Their view of Alaska as a colony is reflected on a tax on all of us.”
Idaho Gov. Brad Little: “The State of Washington is at it again – trying to tax Idahoans unfairly. AG Wasden and I called on WA Governor Jay Inslee to step in and stop the state’s attempts to increase the cost of fuel for Idahoans and citizens of other Western states.”
Celebrate the spud
Potato Day returns Wednesday. That means free baked potatoes for all — until supply runs out.
This popular session tradition will be outside, on the steps on the Capitol’s north side. And potatoes will be handed out in pre-packaged boxes.
The celebration begins at 10:30 a.m.
Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.
Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Shauna Sowersby (McClatchy newspapers) | Laurel Demkovich (Spokesman-Review)