Rep. Brian Blake’s Newsletter: SPECIAL BUDGET EDITION

Dear friends and neighbors,

I am happy to report that we passed the 2020 Supplemental Operating Budget earlier today.

Supplemental budgets are passed in even years to make mid-course corrections to the two-year budgets passed in odd years. This way, the state can adjust investments to keep families safe, provide high-quality education, and address other emergent needs like public health.

This budget adds just over $1 billion in new spending to the $52.4 billion, two-year budget passed last April.

There are no new general taxes in this budget, and it complies with the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement. It leaves $3 billion in total reserves at the end of the biennium, the largest balance in state history. Over the four-year outlook, the reserves are expected to grow to $3.6 billion.

Blue budget

You can dive deep into the budget documents by clicking here, but I wanted to make sure you got the highlights right away.

First, the most urgent need:

With passage of House Bill 2965, this budget increases emergency coronavirus funding from $100 to $200 Million:  $175 Million (plus $25 Million in federal funds) will be directed to state and local public health agencies to cover costs that include a dedicated call center, monitoring and testing. The remaining $25 million will be transferred into the newly created COVID-19 unemployment account to help businesses and workers disrupted by the pandemic.

Now for the highlights:

$160 Million to address homelessness and affordable housing, including sheltering homeless adults, families and youth across the state, helping more individuals stay in their homes, funding the Housing and Essential Needs program and the Housing Trust Fund, as well as permanent supportive housing.

$138 Million to reduce childcare rates for working families and strengthen the foster care system.

$187 Million for early learning and K-12, including expanding early learning programs, local levy assistance, counselors in high poverty schools, special education, pupil transportation, paraeducator training, and student mental health and safety.

$31.5 Million for higher education and workforce development, including Opportunity Scholarship and Rural Jobs, Job Skills Program expansion, and aerospace workforce development grants.

$82 Million to fund rural health clinics and foundational public health, as well as to increase Medicaid rates for primary care physicians, behavioral health providers and nursing homes.

$62.4 Million for Corrections and Public Safety, including increases for Department of Corrections custody staff and health care related needs, additional training and initiatives at the Criminal Justice Training Commission and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, as well as for re-entry and chemical dependency-related items.

Lastly, as chair of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, I am pleased with the investments in this budget. There’s $24 Million for the Department of Fish and Wildlife so it can continue sustaining its core work of conserving fish, wildlife, and habitat, and providing fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching opportunities. We also added $25 Million for wildfire suppression and prevention, and $4 Million for State Parks.

This is a good, responsible operating budget that addresses urgent needs such as public health and housing, and keeps healthy reserves, all without new taxes.

With session over, I’ll be heading back to district, but expect a newsletter in the next couple of weeks with what I consider the most important policies we passed this session.

Please keep taking care of yourselves and your families as we all continue weathering this virus.

Best,

blake sig