State Senate passes first draft of $59 billion spending plan

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its own similar plan Saturday.

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The Washington Senate on Thursday passed its two-year budget spending proposal that lawmakers said focuses on helping those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget passed the Democratic-led chamber on a 27-22 vote. The House, also led by Democrats, is expected to vote on its own similar plan Saturday. A final plan will then be negotiated and passed before the end of the 105-day legislative session April 25.

Lawmakers got good news last month, with an updated state revenue forecast showing that revenues were nearly back to where they were pre-pandemic, a significant turnaround from a forecast last summer that projected a $9 billion shortfall. They also will have billions in federal stimulus funds that can be used over the next few years for schools, vaccine administration and public health.

Democratic budget leaders said that the approximately $59 billion spending plan responds to the needs that the pandemic highlighted and includes millions for the state’s public health system, child care and early learning, and efforts on affordable housing and to reduce homelessness.

“Our Washington families are ready for us to recover, and rebuild and rebound,” said Democratic Sen. June Robinson of Everett. The budget makes “equitable, strategic investments to get our state through this pandemic and move us into a post-pandemic state and world.”

The budget assumes the enactment of a capital gains tax, which has has already passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. Republicans have argued that lawmakers should not impose new taxes in the midst of a pandemic and have said the capital gains tax is illegal under state law. Litigation is likely if the Legislature approves the tax.

“I’m bothered by the fact that the people will have to foot the bill for the lawsuit that will happen afterwards,” said Republican Sen. Lynda Wilson.

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