Majority Democrats in Olympia last week released their plans to add more than $1 billion to the state’s 2019-21 operating budget that was enacted last May.
The new expenditures would be added on top of what was already a record level of state spending.
Both the House (HB 2325) and Senate (SB 6168) supplemental budget proposals would spend all of the unexpected extra tax collections economic forecasters have projected so far.
After debating some three dozen amendments, the Senate passed its supplemental budget proposal on Feb. 27 by a mostly partisan 33-16 vote. That same day, the House Appropriations Committee approved the House version and sent HB 2325 to the Rules Committee to be placed on the floor calendar for action by the full House.
Meanwhile, the Senate unanimously approved SB 6248, the supplemental Capital Budget on Feb. 26, adding $283 million to the $4.9 billion for statewide construction projects approved last year.
This year’s 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end on March 12.
Senate Bill 6168, Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium supplemental operating appropriations
Passed the Senate on Feb. 27 by a vote of 33-16
This is the Senate version of the supplemental state spending plan for the 2019-21 fiscal period that ends June 30, 2021. It would add some $1.1 billion to the already record-high two-year operating budget approved last year, bringing it to about $56 billion.
As passed by the Senate, this spending plan relies on the higher-than-expected tax collections projected by state economic forecasters a week ago.
Senate Democrats said the plan would not impose major tax increases, beyond the new taxes on business owners lawmakers already imposed earlier this year. They said their plan would increase spending with “important and valuable investments focused on areas that need to be addressed right now.” Among the areas for large increases in spending are programs to fight homelessness and secure affordable housing, improve the environment and boost spending on mental health care, they said.
Republicans, however, argued that the plan risks budget cuts or tax increases when the next economic downturn strikes, and that it fails to provide any tax relief or long-term investments. Among the three-dozen amendments proposed during consideration of the bill on the floor were Republican proposals to use any new boost in tax collections between now and the next revenue forecast to lower property taxes next year.
Republicans also proposed to use the sales tax collected on vehicle sales for transportation projects, which are facing a deficit if Initiative 976 is upheld. These and other amendments were voted down, and the bill passed on a mostly partisan 36-13 vote.
Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting for it, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Mason County, who often votes with Republicans, cast the only Democratic vote against it.
The bill is now headed for the House, which will consider its own version, HB 2325.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim Yes