OLYMPIA – House Democratic budget writers unveiled their $65 billion supplemental operating budget proposal at a noon press conference today, highlighting the ongoing needs of Washington families amplified by the pandemic. The proposal, which will be available for public comment in the House Appropriations Committee later today, addresses a wide variety of challenges facing the state.
The core tenet of the House proposal is addressing barriers that have existed prior to the pandemic but were exacerbated since 2020. Building off last year’s “Washington Recovery Budget” we focus on the highest support to recovery happens with investments in schools, behavioral health, housing and access to childcare. The supplemental budget also focuses on business and economic recovery where we know it’s needed and works. Schools are not only made whole through stabilization, but improved with the inclusion of funding for HB 1664 to put more nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors in schools and address growing student mental health needs. Funding is also provided for food assistance, addressing inflation, and transportation needs.
Continuing to put the people of Washington first, the supplemental budget proposal adds $282 million into the state’s childcare and welfare systems, adding funding for Working Connections Childcare providers, expanding Early Learning and Childhood Education Program (ECEAP) slots, and addresses funding needs for critical foster care programs. Lack of child care is often cited as a reason for one parent, usually women, leaving the workforce and significantly reducing family income as well as impacting businesses attempting to retain valuable employees.
Business recovery is another key component of this proposal, with more than $200 million invested in hospitality businesses, expanding assistance for arts, heritage and cultural organizations, funding the motion picture assistance program, creating a small business innovation and competitiveness fund, and small business disaster recovery.
To further stimulate the economy, support local small businesses, and give families a break, the proposal includes HB 2018, the sales and use tax holiday over Labor Day Weekend for purchases under $1,000.
Citing the need to increase access to care for communities, budget writers added in $332 million in behavioral health programs, targeting workforce recruitment and retention. Ensuring that providers can pay employees a fair wage is one tool the state can use to keep access to services guaranteed, meaning more people can stay healthy and specialty care for a mental health crisis or substance use.
House budget writers committed to a $2 billion transfer from the general fund to help pay for Move Ahead WA, the transformative transportation package announced earlier this month. An additional fund transfer of $500 million to the capital budget will fund housing construction programs to address the homelessness and housing insecurity crisis, creating construction jobs in the process.
The proposal is responsible and leaves over $3.6 billion in reserves between various accounts over the four year outlook. The Appropriations committee will hear the budget this afternoon beginning at 3:30 p.m. Full details of the proposal can be viewed at LEAP website here.
A vote on the budget by the full House is expected this Saturday, February 26.
The 2022 session is scheduled to end on March 10, 2022.