Budget leaders in both the Washington state Senate and the House or Representatives announced, on Monday, an agreement to update the state’s present two-year operating budget.
The state Congress has been working on a supplemental 2015-2017 budget since the regular legislative session of 2016. And the new agreement will update the spending plan to include adjustments that will help to pay for increased mental health care as well as higher costs for fighting the 2015 wildfires while still remaining within the state’s four-year balanced-budgget requirement.
“Last year we found broad bipartisan agreement on a sustainable two-year budget that made historic investments in K-12 education and reduced college tuition, while living within the means provided by taxpayers,” explains Senate Ways and Means Committee vice-chair Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia. Also a lead budget negotiator, Braun goes on to say, “This year’s budget update builds upon those investments and addresses the needs of Washington residents, including significant improvements in mental health treatment and care for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Now that the announcement has been made, we can expect lawmakers to conclude the bipartisan agreement voting by the end of sessionTuesday.
“Every legislative session is an opportunity to do something to improve the lives of Washington’s seven million residents,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “It took a little longer than I had hoped, but this budget was worth the wait. The Legislature will make key investments that address the teacher shortage crisis, improve mental health services, reduce homelessness, and improve the lives of foster kids. It’s not everything we wanted, of course, but that’s the reality of a divided government. The only path forward is through compromise and that’s what we’ve done with this budget agreement.”
But this overtime Congressional session comes after the Senate have already pre-approved several bills, so the time has not been wasted. For example, the Senate has already pre-approved Bill 5145, which requires that at least one member of Washington State’s Health Technology Clinical Committee to become an appointee aboard either the Washington State Medical Association or the Washington State Osteopathic Medical Association. Also pre-approved was Senate Bill 5458, which lets local health districts act as their own financial custodians, also granting health districts additional local powers. If you ever thought budgeting is easy, try dong your own household budget here.
More on the pre-approved bills and the final budget details are availabel today at leap.leg.wa.gov.