OLYMPIA – House Democrats rolled out their supplemental operating budget proposal for the 2019-21 biennium today, which makes adjustments to the two-year budget lawmakers approved last year. It focuses on addressing emergent needs across the state in housing insecurity and homelessness, affordability of childcare, and healthcare access.
These were some of the top priorities the caucus laid out at the start of the legislative session.
“This budget articulates our values and makes decisions that commit this state to standing up for what people want in their government,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington). “Even in a supplemental budget year, we used the good economic forecast to make investments that will give our children and grandchildren a chance at a fair shake.”
“These are important and valuable investments focused on areas that need to be addressed right now, this year. That’s what a responsible supplemental budget should focus on, and this one does exactly that,” said House Appropriations Chair Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane).
One of the biggest investments is a $100 million transfer from the state’s General Fund to the Housing Trust Fund, which will go toward new affordable housing projects, homeless shelters, and programs that maintain affordable housing stock.
This brings the state’s total investment in the Housing Trust Fund to $275 million for the 2019-21 biennium.
The budget also invests in increasing access to and affordability of childcare, the lack of which hurts both families and businesses across the state.
An additional $56 million will go toward helping families with low incomes pay for childcare, as well as investments to maintain subsidized pre-school slots for three- and four-year-olds who are most at risk of not being kindergarten-ready.
Bringing down the cost of healthcare for families and addressing emergent behavioral and public health needs is also prioritized in the budget proposal.
“Despite this being a supplemental budget year, we knew more has to be done to address our state’s healthcare and behavioral health needs,” said Vice Chair of Appropriations Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett). “We’ve targeted our investments toward the people and families that need it the most.”
In addition to increasing Medicaid primary care and nursing home rates, the budget boosts support for rural health clinics, foundational public health, and the state’s response to the coronavirus.
Behavioral health also receives additional investments in the budget, including $38 million for state hospital operations for staffing and facility needs.
Other areas of investment in the budget include $41 million to ease restrictions on temporary cash assistance to the state’s neediest families, $27.3 million to increase fire suppression funding at the state Department of Natural Resources, $17.6 million toward critical ongoing support for Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife operations, $18.9 million to address staffing and community custody needs at the Washington State Department of Corrections, and $1.3 million to fund the new state Office of Equity, which will reduce systemic disparities within state government.
The proposal does not rely on any new taxes or fund transfers. It leaves about $685 million in reserves for the biennium.
The Appropriations committee will hear the budget this afternoon beginning at 3:30 p.m. in House Hearing Room A. Full details of the proposal can be viewed at: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2020/ho2020p.asp
A vote on the budget by the full House is expected this Friday, February 28.
The 2020 session is slated to end on March 12, 2020.