We are now in week 8 of Washington State's legislative session, and nearing its end. March 4th, is the deadline for all bills to pass the opposite chamber, for example a House bill must be passed by the Senate and vice-versa before 5:00 p.m. on the 4th.
Supplemental Budgets Proposed
Last week, the House and Senate released their versions of the supplemental budget. There were no major cuts to social service programs in either the House or Senate budgets.
The House budget proposes to spend an additional $467 million, including $99 million for starting teacher pay raises as part of solving the teacher shortage crisis in the state. The House budget also contains $47 million for mental health, including $3 million for community mental health centers, and nearly $50 million to aid people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The funds could be used for rental assistance and rapid rehousing. The House plan proposes to pay for the increased spending by eliminating six tax exemptions, including the sales tax exemption for bottled water. In addition to ending some tax breaks, the House budget proposes to tap the state’s emergency “rainy day fund” for $190 million to help pay for the devastating 2015 wildfire season.
The Senate supplemental operating budget relies on spending cuts and one-time savings and actually reduces state spending. The budget provides for a $159 million increase for low-income health care, necessitated by increased caseloads for patients on Medicaid, and includes $36 million to increase safety at Western State Hospital.
Neither the House nor the Senate supplemental capital budgets include any additional monies for the Housing Trust Fund.
Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs)
Most people convicted of a crime must pay Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) that include victim restitution, crime victims' compensation fees, etc. The interest rate on repayment is about 12 percent. As it passed the House on Feb. 3 by a 97-0 vote, HB 1390 would eliminate the interest on most of the debt. The bill, which WSCC supports, passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.
The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program is called WorkFirst in Washington State. This program provides eligible adults assistance to find work. HB 1875 would increase the amount of vocational training for WorkFirst recipients from 12 to 24 months, subject to the amount appropriated. HB 1875, which WSCC supports, passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.
Toxic Flame Retardants
HB 2545, legislation that WSCC supports, would prohibit a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer from manufacturing, selling, or distributing for sale or for use in this state children's products or residential upholstered furniture containing any of five flame retardants. HB 2545 passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.
To receive updates on how these and other pieces of legislation, visit WSCC's Action Center and Join the Network.