Dear Friends & Neighbors,
We are expecting to pass an agreed upon operating budget late tonight. It makes a historic investment in our K-12 system, keeps us from laying-off over 32,000 State employees and assures that Washingtonians continue to get the services they expect and deserve.
Regrettably, Senate Republicans have now refused to negotiate the capital budget, so there is still some work to do. Failure to act on the capital budget will prevent the State from building the new schools for classrooms funded in the operating budget and will result in over 2000 lay-offs. It will not result in a government shutdown but it has a severe negative impact.
2017 Budget Victories
When different parties both hold power, compromise is absolutely necessary.
We’re happy to report that we have a budget that makes extraordinary investments in several key sectors, while avoiding some of the more detrimental ideas the Senate Republicans wanted included.
Here is a list of some of the big victories in the budget.
Keeping our promise to 1.1 million school kids – Adds $7.3 billion into public schools, making key investments in teacher salaries, professional development, para-educators, class size reduction, learning assistance, special education, highly capable, transitional bilingual instruction, and low performing schools.
Investments in our earliest learners – Expands Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program slots by 1,800.
Making college more affordable – Additional investments are made to help 875 more students who qualify for the State Need Grant to get the financial aid they need to reach their dreams of a college education.
Striving for a healthier Washington – Invests an additional $12 million in public health, and secures over $1.5 billion in federal Medicaid waiver dollars, which will be used to fight the opioid crisis, integrate physical and behavioral health, reduce homeless rates, and increase support for in-home family caregivers.
Providing behavioral health care and treatment to those in need – Funding is provided for new beds and discharge placements, housing & supportive services, inpatient and outpatient psychiatric rate increases, and state hospital funding.
Helping families stay in their homes – Increase in funding for assistance programs, including youth homelessness and permanent supportive housing.
Providing high-quality care to our aging population and people with disabilities – Provider rate increases, nursing home direct payments, respite care, and employment services for transitioning students.
Supporting families in need – $200 million in additional Temporary Aid to Needy Families grants, WorkFirst, and Aged, Blind & Disable assistance. A 6% rate increase for Working Connections Child Care.
Doing what’s best for kids – Fully funding the new department of Children, Youth, and Family Services.
Keeping our communities safe – Funds additional Basic Law Enforcement Academy Classes per year and civil legal aid.
Fully funds the Clean Air rule.
Recruiting and retaining a high-quality workforce – As one of the largest employers in the state, we must be in a position to compete for high-quality workforce. Our budget fully funds the collective bargaining agreements, with non-represented parity, and does not reduce employee health benefits.
Senate Republicans agreed to raise taxes by $5.3 billion– a move they’ve staunchly resisted for a generation.
Don’t forget what the GOP proposed
While there were many Democratic priorities that did not end up in the final product, we think it is important to remember what the Senate Republicans budget proposal was. We beat back some very regressive ideas in our negotiation.
The Senate Republican Budget proposal:
· Cut existing health benefits for state employees
· Rejected over $1.5 billion in federal Medicaid funding – a rejection that would worsen the opioid crisis, delay mental and physical health integration, and increase homeless rates
· Rejected collective bargaining agreements, cutting pay for critical staff and jeopardizing employee and patient safety at state hospitals
· Failed to fund supplemental costs for state hospitals – potentially leading to the loss of federal accreditation and funding
· Inadequately funded salary increases and health care coverage to long term care providers – jeopardizing care to elderly and disabled Washingtonians
· Imposed stricter TANF eligibility requirements, deeply cut state food assistance and eliminated the Housing and Essential Needs program
· Restricted access to preschool slots for kids from low-income families
This list goes on.
The point is, democratic values prevailed and while we were not able to fully fund all the programs that Washingtonians expect and deserve, we were able to eliminate deep cuts to many, many important programs. This is a big win!
Local projects at risk without capital budget agreement
While most of the press attention has been on passing an operating budget to avoid a government shutdown, we now face another hurdle with Senate Republicans.
Along with an operating budget, the Legislature passes a Capital Budget that funds local construction projects, civic works, and improvements to community buildings and resources. This year, the House proposed a new Capital Budget totaling $4.15 billion for new schools, investments in clean drinking water, environmental programs like salmon recovery, improved mental health facilities, and housing programs.
Here are some of the highlights of the capital budget that passed the House in the regular session, that the Senate Republicans are now refusing to negotiate on:
K-12 School Construction:
- Over $1 billion for the School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP). (This includes an increase in student space allocation for K-6 schools to help reduce class sizes)
- $30 million for rural and distressed schools
- $15 million for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) grants
Other Education Construction:
- $800 million for higher education construction projects, of which $433 million is for community and technical college projects, including $3.1 million for the new Bates Technical College Medical Mile Health Science Center. This new building will replace the West Annex building at the downtown Tacoma campus, providing space for Allied Health and STEM programs.
- $15.5 million for early learning facilities
Mental Health Construction:
- $76 million for Community Behavioral Health Capacity in communities across the state, including $3 million for the Multi-Care Franciscan joint venture psychiatric hospital to be built in Tacoma
- $58 million for construction, renovation, and upgrades at state facilities (Western and Eastern State Hospitals)
- $24 million for supportive housing (a combination of affordable housing and support services to help families and individuals in recovery or transitioning from homelessness, involuntary mental health commitment, and other crises)
Housing and Other Investments:
- $105 million for the Housing Trust Fund (funds construction and preservation of affordable housing statewide)
- $65 million for clean energy, solar, and energy efficiency projects
- $54 million for maintenance and preservation projects in our state parks (an increase of $2.5 million over last biennium)
- $18 million for forest health/wildfire prevention
In addition to the above statewide investments, the following construction/renovation/remediation projects in our district received capital budget allocations:
- $2.5 million for the Tacoma Community House
- $2.5 million for the Eastside Community Center
- $1.2 million for the Boys and Girls Club of South Puget Sound
- $1.0 million for the Broadway Center
- $1.0 million for the Intrepid Spirit Center
- $1.0 million for the Tacoma Art Museum
- $1.0 million for soil remediation at the UW Tacoma Campus
- $330,000 for the Peace Community Center
- Nearly $150,000 to expand SeaMar dental clinic capacity, which will help low-income and Medicaid-eligible people access much-needed dental health care
To find a more detailed explanation of each project, visit this website.
This delay is unnecessary, unwarranted, and will negatively impact our economy at the local and state level.
We will continue to push Senate Republicans to come to the table and negotiate a fair and robust capital budget that will build a better Washington for generations to come.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our offices with any concerns or perspectives you have. We weigh your input heavily as we navigate these difficult issues.
Your voices in Olympia,
Laurie & Jake