Dear friends and neighbors,
As many of you know, the Legislature has just begun a third special session to pass a new two-year state operating budget.
Unfortunately, time is running out. The current fiscal period ends on June 30th, and if a budget agreement isn’t reached by then, the state government will shut down.
A shutdown, even for a few days, would have very real, very harmful consequences for our state, our economy, and the environment. Here are just a few examples:
- More than 50,000 vulnerable seniors will no longer receive meal services, while the Food Assistance Program, which distributes food and money to local food banks and assistance programs statewide, will stop operating.
- Veterans and their families will experience disruptions in services that connect them to the benefits they earned, such as the 2,000 veterans who will be without PTSD counseling.
- The prescription drug overdose prevention program will stop, leading to the potential for higher rates of opioid abuse and overdose death rate.
- Local economies and small businesses that rely on summer tourism will suffer as state parks will be closed and park special events cancelled.
- Shellfish growers will not be able to sell their goods, as the environment-related health programs that test for toxins will not be in operation.
- Responses to hazardous spills and environmental complaints will almost completely stop as will inspections to rail lines carrying crude oil and coal.
The only way a budget passes is if everybody – Democrats and Republicans – shows up at the negotiating table, willing to work. We’ve had two months since the end of the regular session, and while the House Democratic negotiating team has been in Olympia every day, Senate Republicans agreed to negotiate in earnest just a few days ago.
To be clear, I don’t expect either the current House or Senate versions of the budget will pass. I do expect that we will sit down at the negotiating table, COMPROMISE, and come to agreement on a budget that provides Washingtonians the services we deserve. And while compromise is necessary, I’m also committed to ensuring the budget represents our state’s values. This means fully funding K-12 schools without harming the most vulnerable in our communities.
I still believe we can get this done. But the clock is ticking.
If you have concerns or questions about the state budget, or a potential government shutdown, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We’re all in this together.
Rep. Strom Peterson