A man sleeps outside in downtown Everett on Nov. 4, 2019. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

A man sleeps outside in downtown Everett on Nov. 4, 2019. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Lawmakers: Inslee’s homelessness plan unlikely to pass

One senator says it’s wrong to take reserve money to pay for things that will require ongoing funding.

By Chris Grygiel / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Top lawmakers said Thursday that Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to use hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s emergency budget reserve to combat Washington’s homelessness crisis was unlikely to pass the Legislature.

Last month Inslee said he wants to spend more than $300 million from the state’s rainy day fund to add 2,100 shelter beds and provide other help to people without shelter.

“’Ï applaud the governor for making this a priority, I’m not 100 percent sure the votes will be there to use the rainy day fund,” Sen. Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said at The Associated Press Legislative Preview.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville and the leader of the minority caucus in that chamber, said it was wrong to take reserve money to pay for things that will require ongoing funding.

‘’You take one-time money from the rainy day fund and you create ongoing costs. That is not sustainable, period,” Schoesler said.

The Democratic governor says Washington must do more to find housing for people. The state has the fifth-highest per-capita rate of homelessness of all U.S. states. In addition to adding shelter beds, Inslee wants to give rental and other housing assistance to more than 3,000 people. His plan would cost $146 million during the 2019-2021 two-year budget cycle and ultimately cost $300 million over three years. The state currently has about $2.5 billion in its emergency fund.

The Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, convenes Monday and will consider Inslee’s proposal as it adjusts the state’s current $52.4 billion two-year budget.

Speaking at The AP preview, Inslee said his idea didn’t have to be paid for with rainy day funds.

“There may be other ways to finance this,” Inslee said.

However the governor said his proposal is financially prudent because the reserve fund will continue to grow and wouldn’t require tax increases or cuts in other areas. He urged lawmakers to take action.

“This is a statewide crisis, and it calls for a statewide solution,”’ Inslee said.

From left, House Speaker Designate Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma; Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane; House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm; and Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville take part in the AP Legislative Preview on Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

From left, House Speaker Designate Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma; Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane; House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm; and Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville take part in the AP Legislative Preview on Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Legislative leaders said they would make addressing homelessness a top priority, but said they wanted to take a holistic approach. House Speaker-designate Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said providing homes is only one part of the problem. She said there isn’t enough transitional housing or adequate help for people addicted to drugs or who are mentally ill.

Rep. Morgan Irwin, R-Enumclaw, said there is agreement between the two parties on many things needed to address homelessness but not consensus about how to pay for them. And Irwin said cities and counties are sometimes reluctant to do enough to address the issue to avoid becoming a magnet for homeless people.

“‘That’s a hard nut to crack,”’ he said.

Irwin said an idea like state matching funds for local communities who step up in this area are tactics to consider.

Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, said helping vulnerable people with unforeseen bills or rent payments is key. He also said creating a guardianship program to improve the care for drug addicted or mentally ill people would help.

And Republicans noted that the state’s general fund budget had increased significantly over the last several cycles. They questioned why new money was needed to combat homelessness.

Inslee said he wants to reduce the number of homeless people by 50 percent over the next two years. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness said as of January 2018 there were more than 22,000 people without shelter in the state.

A new Crosscut/Elway poll showed that people in the state named addressing homelessness as the top priority for state legislators. The Dec. 26-29 survey of 405 registered voters found 31 percent of people naming the issue as the main one before lawmakers, more than any other subject. In the survey 50% said they supported Inslee’s push to use rainy day funds for the problem; 44 percent opposed. The survey’s margin of error was 5 percent.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan recently signed an agreement that would designate the agency to coordinate the county and city response to homelessness. It would begin next year with $130 million in funding from the county and the city.

The homelessness problem is particularly acute in the Seattle area, with an imperfect one-night count earlier this year estimating more than 11,000 homeless in King County and encampments in parks and freeway underpasses.

Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, noted that a lot of housing had been built in Seattle during Washington’s largest city’s tech boom, but most of it was too pricey for people threatened with homelessness.

“’Building housing supply is not a quick fix,” she said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

An egg-producing chicken is in a pasture at Wilcox Family Farms, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Roy, Wash. Eggs have been one item that can be hard to find on grocery store shelves during the outbreak of the coronavirus, even though the closure of restaurants and large corporate kitchens has led to a decreased demand for food service egg products. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
State asks live poultry sales to end because of bird flu

The 30-day closure is not mandatory. There are still no reported infections in Snohomish County.

King County Superior Court Judge Roger  Rogoff stands in court, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Seattle. Rogoff announced Monday that a settlement had been reached in a lawsuit brought by survivors and family members of people killed in a 2014 Oso, Wash., landslide against the state of Washington and a timber company that logged an area above the site of the slide. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Former judge to head office probing Washington police shootings

The state’s new independent office will review cases where police use deadly force.

Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, wearing an eagle feather honoring her Native American heritage, smiles as she speaks with media members after being named to the state Supreme Court Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Olympia, Wash. Montoya-Lewis was appointed to the bench by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who said she will be the first Native American justice to serve on the state's highest court. Montoya-Lewis, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta and a descendant of the Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribes, will be sworn in next month to fulfill the remaining year of Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst's term, and the seat will be open for election in 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
State Supreme Court Justice Montoya-Lewis on medical leave

Officials with the court didn’t release additional details, citing the justice’s desire for privacy.

Police: Arby’s manager in Washington peed in milkshake mix

He said he did it for sexual gratification, and he’s “almost sure” he threw the tainted bag away.

Andrew Cain Kristovich (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Oregon fugitive with Snohomish County ties arrested in Nevada

Andrew Cain Kristovich escaped from a federal prison camp in April. He was considered armed and dangerous.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks March 23, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Months into a complex trial over their role in flooding Washington with highly addictive painkillers, the nation's three largest opioid distributors have agreed to pay the state $518 million. Ferguson announced the deal Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
DNA from 372 state sex offenders added to national database

Officials have been unable to collect samples from some offenders, including three in Snohomish County.

FILE - Randy Weaver, the object of the Ruby Ridge siege, visits with the media at the main FBI roadblock outside the Freemen compound in Montana on April 27, 1996. Weaver, patriarch of a family that were involved in an 11-day Idaho standoff in 1992 with federal agents that left three people dead and served as a spark for the growth of anti-government extremists, has died at the age of 74. His death was announced Thursday, May 12, 2022, in a Facebook post by daughter Sara Weaver, who lives near Kalispell, Montana. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
Randy Weaver, participant in Ruby Ridge standoff, dies at 74

The 11-day standoff in the Idaho Panhandle mountains transfixed the nation in August of 1992.

Barbara Williams, center, holds an umbrella for her mother, tribal chair Cecile Hansen, right, as they prepare to join other members of the Duwamish Indian Tribe in performing an "honor song" Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 near a location in Seattle where bones were found during construction activities near the Pike Place Market. The song was performed because the tribe felt at the time that the remains could have been from an ancient member of the tribe, but city authorities said later in the day that the remains appeared to have been from a small animal. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Duwamish Tribe sues again for federal recognition

Tthe lawsuit demands the court set aside the denial of recognition in 2015 by the Obama administration.

A pod of transient orcas, known as T124As, surfacing near Tacoma. (Craig Craker/Orca Network)
Sightings of mammal-eating orcas increasing in Puget Sound

The killer whales enjoy a diet of harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises and the occasional bird or squid.

FILE - Bill Gates discusses his book "How to Prevent the Next Pandemic" at the 92nd Street Y on May 3, 2022, in New York. Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates posted on Twitter on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, that he tested positive for COVID-19. He said he was experiencing mild symptoms and was following the experts' advice by isolating until he is healthy again. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Bill Gates says he has COVID, experiencing mild symptoms

The billionaire philanthropist said he will isolate until he is again healthy.

FILE - Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin enters the house chambers at the state Capitol building on Jan. 10, 2022 in Boise, Idaho. McGeachin, a GOP candidate for governor, on Monday, May 9, 2022, called on incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little to call a special session to eliminate rape and incest as legal exceptions to Idaho's abortion law. The law would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, File)
Idaho lieutenant governor wants harshest U.S. abortion ban

Janice McGeachin is angling for state lawmakers to eliminate exceptions for rape and incest.