Yesterday the House released a revised biennial budget and this morning held a public hearing on the new proposal.
The proposal makes a handful of changes based on the recent revenue forecast as well as an extension of the higher federal match for the Children’s Health Insurance Program combined with smaller updates and corrections. These changes are made to the proposal initially released by the House in April.
The latest House proposal retains only one of the major new revenue proposals put forth by the chamber – the capital gains tax. In addition the latest proposal includes $34 million in savings in state employee health benefits, assuming a lower rate increase than previously calculated; $220 million less for K-12 public schools of which the majority comes from not increasing funding for K-12 health benefits; and $11 million less for natural resources of which the majority comes from not increasing the disaster contingency appropriations.
The proposal increases appropriations by $17 million for mental health, increases the TANF grant by 9% instead of providing increased funding for specific services, and an additional $50 million is assumed above the original proposal for low income health care costs which are covered by anticipated increases in marijuana related revenue.
As it relates to higher education the new proposal provides $32 million less for higher education, nearly all of which comes from the reduced costs of health benefits, and a reduction to the Opportunity Scholarship from $60 million in the original proposal to $30 million.
The House is scheduled to move the new proposal out of committee tomorrow, June 3 at 1:00 pm.
Yesterday the Washington Legislature ended the first special session of the 2015 regular legislative session. While lawmakers were successful in passing a transportation budget, they did not reach agreement on a biennial operating or capital budget and several policy bills that would be necessary to implement the budgets proposed this session.
Governor Inslee immediately announced a special session to begin this morning. The Legislature will have 30 days to complete their work. In addition the Governor firmly asked negotiators to move their discussions to his office for face-to-face daily meetings instead of exchanging budgets via paper.
On Thursday afternoon the Senate released a revised operating budget that they argue makes progress on several concerns raised by the House including keeping institutions whole with regard to the proposed tuition reduction, holding private non-profit institutions harmless in the State Need Grant program, and increasing funding for compensation.
The House, who will release their counteroffer on Monday and hold a public hearing on Tuesday, expressed concern about a lack of funding for mental health ($50 million), early learning ($115 million) and support for teacher COLAs ($154 million) in the Senate’s latest proposal.
This morning the Senate released a revised biennial budget and by the afternoon the Senate Ways & Means Committee advanced the budget to the floor.
The proposal makes a handful of changes based on the recent revenue forecast as well as an extension of the higher federal match for the Children’s Health Insurance Program combined with smaller updates and corrections. These changes are made to the proposal initially released by the Senate in April which spends $37.9 billion.
The proposal released today increases spending on policy initiatives by $242 million in the 2015-17 biennium. The largest increases included: (1) $113 million in higher education, (2) $77 million in employee compensation, (3) $27 million in long term care and developmental disabilities and (4) $16 million in natural resources.
As it relates to higher education the new proposal provides an additional $99 million to implement the College Affordability Program in the first year of the biennium. In addition funding is provided to mitigate impacts on private schools from the financial aid changes proposed in the budget and makes changes based on updated information about current use of tuition waivers by institutions of higher education.
Today the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced a meeting for tomorrow. The sole agenda item is to consider the timing of the next revenue forecast. Currently the next forecast is scheduled to be released on June 17.
In the past week bipartisan support has emerged to consider moving the June forecast up. Policymakers are concerned that the June date is too late as the Legislature continues to work to reach a compromise budget.
Next Thursday marks the halfway point in special session.The thirty day special session that convened on April 29 is scheduled to end on May 28.
This week budget writers met for two days to discuss and brief on the more than 1,000 differences between the two budgets. Leadership shared that at this point budget writers are going through the budget, identifying differences and determining where decisions will be required to reach a compromise.
Within the multitude of differences, the Legislature must reach agreement on several big policy and funding issues including support for K-12 basic education and mental health and then how to support these funds, which inserts a conservation around revenue.
In an effort to assist these conversations there is a bipartisan effort to push for an early revenue forecast to determine if the state will collect more revenue. The next revenue forecast is scheduled for mid-June, which many policymakers recognize is too late.
While there is no floor action scheduled to date, next week a handful of House and Senate Committees are scheduled to meet. In the House this includes a public hearing on Thursday in House Appropriations to discuss a new approach to the Governor’s proposed cap-and-trade plan and on Wednesday a public hearing in House Finance on a capital gains tax proposal. The Senate Higher Education Committee will convene on Thursday, as well, for a work session on transfer between institutions and sectors.
Today is the first day of a 30-day special session. The Legislature faces major issues in the next month including biennial operating, capital and transportation budgets and policy legislation necessary to implement the budget.
Last Friday the Legislature adjourned the 2015 regular session. Governor Inslee requested negotiators return earlier this week to continue budget negotiations.
The first week of the session will be a mix of negotiations and committee meetings. Budget writers and leadership are expected to brief their caucuses today and the fiscal committees are scheduled for public hearings today and tomorrow.
This evening the Washington Legislature ended the 2015 regular legislative session. The regular session ended without the passage of a biennial operating, capital or transportation budget or several policy bills that would be necessary to implement the budgets proposed this session.
Governor Inslee immediately announced a special session to begin April 29. The Legislature will have 30 days to complete their work.
The Senate and House continue to focus on advancing legislation to the Governor’s desk. Both chambers have concurred or sent bills to conference in hopes of passing them before the regular session is scheduled to adjourn on Sunday.
On the budget front negotiations have stalled. The Legislature will go into special session, the question is when. Once the regular session adjourns then the decision will be whether the Governor calls the Legislature back right away or sends them home for a while. Once the Governor does call the Legislature back, the special session is scheduled for 30 days. The Legislature can adjourn early from the special session if their work is completed or take the full 30 days. If the Legislature exceeds the 30 days then another special session will need to be called.
Next week marks the last week of the regular session. The regular session will end on April 26. While there is always hope it seems more and more likely a special session will follow the regular session.
A handful of legislators – leadership and budget writers – will work over the weekend and through the week to negotiate a final biennial operating, capital and transportation budget.
For the rest of the members the week will include a combination of time on the floor and in committee. While the Senate has little committee work scheduled to date beyond the fiscal committee, the House – in addition to the fiscal work -will hold a series of policy committee meetings throughout the week to discuss interim planning.
On Tuesday morning the House Higher Education will hold an interim planning session.
So where do things stand with regard to getting out of town for good.
The House and Senate have each passed a biennial operating and capital budget proposal. Negotiations between leaders and budget writers began last week and will continue until an agreement has been reached.
The House Appropriations Committee will meet on Monday morning to consider additional legislation. The Senate Ways & Means Committee met this morning to consider legislation to fund basic education in Washington and is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to consider revenue proposals. The House Finance and Capital Budget Committees are scheduled to meet next Friday.
Next week the Washington House and Senate will spend long days on the floor.
The first half of the week will be dedicated to advancing policy bills, not necessary to implement the budget, from the floor to the Governor’s desk. Both chambers have until the end of day on April 15 to move bills. A word to the wise be cautious what you consider to be a “dead bill”, things can come back to life at anytime.
Once this deadline passes it will be full throttle to the ultimate deadline – sine die. April 26 marks the end of the regular session.
So where do things stand.
To date, the House has passed a proposed biennial operating budget to the Senate. It is now in Senate Ways & Means. No further action has taken place on revenue, which underlies the operating budget. The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet a week from today. The House also advanced, with a strong bipartisan vote, a biennial capital budget. The capital budget is now in Senate Ways & Means.
The Senate has passed an operating budget to the House. It is now in House Appropriations. This past week the Senate released and advanced a capital budget proposal. The Senate “gut-n-stuffed” the House’s capital budget (HB 1115/116) with their proposal in committee late this week. It is expected the Senate will take up the bill on the floor next week.