Dear Friends and Family,
We’re in our fifth week of the legislative session now and rapidly approaching February 20 – the House policy committee cutoff date. This is a very important deadline because it is the last day to vote bills out of their respective policy committees. Members are racing to “drop” legislation as committee chairs schedule the final bills to be heard in their committees before the deadline.
I’ve received many questions regarding what’s happening with the budget. First, it is important to know that three different budgets exist: the operating budget; the capital budget; and the transportation budget. Washington State typically adopts the three budgets on a biennial budget cycle. The Legislature authorizes expenditures for operating, capital, and transportation purposes for a two-year period, and authorizes bond sales through passage of a bond bill associated with the capital budget. The budgets for the 2015-17 biennium cover the period from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017. The primary two-year budget is enacted in odd-numbered years, and a supplemental budget making adjustments to the two-year budget is often enacted during even-numbered years. The budgets are typically the last items to be negotiated and passed. Both Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate are working on the thousands of details found in each budget.
Operating Budget: The operating budget includes appropriations for the general day-to-day operating expenses of state agencies, colleges and universities, and public schools. Employee salaries and benefits, leases, goods and services, and public assistance payments are typical operating expenses. More than half of the operating budget is funded by the State General Fund with the balance from federal and other funding sources. Complying with McCleary (the state Supreme Court case mandating more funding for the K-12 education system) falls within the jurisdiction of the operating budget. The House committee primarily responsible for the operating budget is the Appropriations Committee.
Capital Budget: The capital budget includes appropriations for construction and repair of state office buildings, colleges and universities, prisons and juvenile rehabilitation facilities, parks, public schools, housing for low-income and disabled persons, farm workers and others, and for other capital facilities and programs. Approximately half of the capital budget is financed by state-issued general obligation bonds, while the rest primarily is funded by dedicated accounts, trust revenue, and federal funding sources. The capital budget often re-appropriates money from previous biennia when projects have not been completed; major projects can take four or more years to design and construct. The House committee responsible for the capital budget is the Capital Budget Committee.
Transportation Budget: The transportation budget includes the operating and capital costs of state and local highways, bridges, ferries, motor vehicle registration, and transportation enforcement, among other things. About 76 percent of the transportation budget is funded by state resources, 1 percent from local sources, and the balance from federal funding sources. Transportation-related bonds are financed primarily through the motor vehicle fuel tax. The House committee responsible for the transportation budget is the Transportation Committee.
Additionally, the Governor, House, and Senate each propose their own operating, capital, and transportation budgets. This creates an even greater challenge because all legislative entities must come to an agreement on the final versions of the three budgets. The months ahead are going to be tough, but I promise to work together with other legislators to create three budgets that will protect and reflect the interests of our district and all Washingtonians.
Reminder: Sign up for Health Care by February 15!
In case you have forgotten, Sunday, February 15 is the last day you can sign up for health care coverage in order for it to start March 1. You can find a Qualified Health Plan through the Washington HealthPlanFinder website at https://www.wahealthplanfinder.org or find free in-person assistance to see if you qualify for financial help to lower the cost of health insurance premiums.
All the Best,