State legislative leaders began budget negotiations behind closed doors last week, after the House passed its proposed spending plan for 2021-23 on April 3.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in both chambers continue to debate and vote on dozens of bills in extended floor sessions. Senate Democrats brought two bills which have long been part of Gov. Inslee’s climate-change agenda to a vote on April 8, passing them after hours-long debate on dozens of amendments.
Inslee signed two bills into law last week: HB 1372, to replace the Marcus Whitman statue in the national statuary hall collection with a statue of Billy Frank Jr., and HB 1078, to restore felons’ voting rights immediately upon their release from prison. The bill passed both chambers along mostly partisan lines in February and March.
Senate Bill 5092 — Making 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating appropriations
Passed the House on April 3 by a vote of 57-41
This is the House version of the proposed spending plan for the 2021-23 biennium. It replaces the $59.2 billion plan passed by the Senate with a proposal for $58.4 billion in spending.
As passed by both chambers, the proposed plans depend on passage of a state income tax on capital gains and would nearly empty the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund. They also assume passage of cap-and-trade and low-carbon fuel standards bills.
Both proposals exceed the $53.7 billion plan proposed by Gov. Inslee last December and the current 2019-21 $51.5 billion operating budget.
The bill must now go back to the Senate for approval of the House changes, which is unlikely.
Instead, lead budget writers from both houses normally meet behind closed doors to work out their differences and craft a unified plan before another vote by both chambers as a whole.
After final passage, the agreed-upon budget plan would then go to Gov. Inslee for his consideration and approval before it is enacted into law.
Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes
Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes
Senate Bill 5126 — Concerning the Washington climate commitment act
Passed the Senate on April 8 by a vote of 25-24
This bill would establish a “cap-and-trade” program for greenhouse gas emissions to be implemented by the Department of Ecology. The program would enable businesses to buy allowances from the state to offset greenhouse gas emissions in excess of set limits to be determined by the State Department of Ecology.
Money from these allowances would go to the Forward Flexible Account to be spent for specified purposes, including clean transportation, natural climate resiliency, clean energy transition and assistance, and energy efficiency projects.
The bill would require that an Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Panel be convened to provide recommendations on the development and implementation of the cap-and-trade program.
Proponents say this bill will lead toward climate level emission reductions in an economically sound way, while placing environmental justice at the forefront.
Critics argue that the program will result in large increases in fuel costs, especially when coupled with low-carbon fuel standards and other proposed gas tax increases. Washington state already has one of the highest gas taxes in the nation, burdening consumers and businesses, they say.
The bill must now go to the House for consideration.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) No
House Bill 1091 — Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel
Passed the Senate on April 8 by a vote of 27-20 (two members excused)
This bill would direct the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) to adopt rules establishing a Clean Fuels Program (CFP) to limit the aggregate, overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035.
It would also direct Ecology to update, prior to 2032, CFP rules to further reduce GHG emissions from each unit of transportation fuel for each year through 2050, consistent with statutory state emission reduction limits.
Senate action on HB 1091, after lengthy debate on more than a dozen amendments, marks the first time a low-carbon fuel standard bill has passed the Senate. Previous measures were passed by the House over the last three years, but failed to advance in the Senate.
HB 1091 passed the House in February by a 56-42 vote.
Because the Senate amended HB 1091, it must now go back to the House for consideration. If the Senate amendments are approved, the bill would be sent to the governor for his signature.
Sen. Van De Wege Yes.