Clean-fuel bill seems to be bypassing a key Democratic foe

Here’s what’s happening on Day 71 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 71 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 22, 2021 — Good Monday morning. Budgets arrive at the end of the week, but the author of the Senate Democrats’ version cautioned theirs is very much a work in progress. I’ll explain in a moment.

Let’s start with intriguing developments involving the proposed cap-and-trade program and low-carbon fuel standard.

Today, a revised cap-and-trade, aka the Washington Climate Commitment Act , is up for a possible vote in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. I say “possible” because it appeared on the agenda Thursday but didn’t get tackled. A substitute, plus 25 amendments, can do that to a bill.

The latest version, unveiled Thursday, ties enforcement of the program to passage of a new transportation funding package. (Check out Section 19.) This means, at a minimum, the policy could be put in place if the package doesn’t come together. This is Gov. Jay Inslee’s bill, so one might conclude he’s good with such a legislative trigger. Conspiracists counter it is a setup and he will veto the contingency clause if the opportunity arises. Today’s meeting gets under way at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are bending the rules to get the low-carbon fuel standard past one of its own and through the chamber.

House Bill 1091, which passed the House 52-46, cleared the Senate environment panel March 16 then was sent to the Ways and Means Committee, bypassing the transportation committee where it’s died the past two years because Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs, the chairman, isn’t a fan.

This significant environmental policy targets pollution generated by the transportation sector, making it ripe for that panel. When Democratic leaders hold their weekly news conference at 2:15 p.m. Monday, maybe they’ll address the revised route of this legislation.

Budget-go-round begins

Senate Democrats intend to release their proposed two-year operating budget Thursday, with a hearing on its content the next day.

“It’ll be a budget like nothing you’ve ever seen because there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Democratic Sen. Christine Rolfes, the Senate’s lead budget writer, at the conclusion of a Ways and Means Committee work session Friday.

There are about $4.2 billion worth of unknowns. That’s the rough amount of federal funds the state expects to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act. Here is an informative powerpoint the Office of Financial Management presented during the work session.

Few strings are attached to much of the money. And Washington has until the end of 2024 to use it up.

“We have three years,” Rolfes said. “It doesn’t all have to be appropriated right now.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats will post their proposed two-year transportation budget online at 10 a.m. today with a hearing Tuesday. You will be able to find it here.

Senate Democrats should be putting theirs online soon, as well. Hobbs scheduled a Tuesday public hearing with a Thursday executive session.

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