On Monday, the 43rd legislative day, the House of Representatives released their 2015-2017 supplemental operating budget proposal. The House was the first since Governor Inslee’s supplemental budget was released in December.
With Representatives Pat Sullivan, Kristine Lytton, and Timm Ormsby beside him, Representative Hans Dunshee, the Appropriations Committee chair and chief budget writer for the House, called the proposal “a balanced budget that meets our constitutional and moral obligations”.
The plan, penned by House Democrats, includes funding for Representative Hansen’s Free to Finish program for students 15 credits or less shy of their degree who have been out of school for three or more years. Overall, the budget proposal maintains funding levels for higher education as set in the biennial budget signed by Governor Inslee last July.
New investments are focused in early learning and K-12 education, mental health, homelessness and response to state-wide emergencies. The plan utilizes additional revenue from the closure of tax exemptions on real estate excise tax and sales tax for non-residents ($56.3 million), repealing the tax exemption on bottled water ($23.2 million), and repealing the preferential B&O tax rate on resellers of prescription drugs, international investment services, and travel agents and tour operators ($40 million).
Notable investments in the budget include:
- $99 million to recruiting and retaining quality teachers, including increasing starting teacher pay to $40,000
- $189 million from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to pay for the 2015 wildfires
- $60 million to address homelessness, truancy reduction and the educational opportunity gap
- $47 million to fix Washington’s mental health care system
- $6 million in improving the foster care system
The Senate budget is expected later this week. Once both budgets are release the House and Senate can begin the collaborative budget writing process in hopes of wrapping up the final budget by March 10th, the last day of the regular legislative session.