Archive for Budget

Legislature passes supplemental budget

By | March 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Legislature has approved a supplemental budget that pays for costs associated with last summer’s wildfires and increases spending at the state’s psychiatric hospitals.

The supplemental budget passed out of the House with a vote of 78-17 early Tuesday afternoon, the 20th day of the 30-day special session. The Senate gave final approval to the budget Tuesday evening, 27-17.

The supplemental budget increases by $191 million the state’s current two-year $38.2 billion budget adopted last year. It includes $7 million to retain more teachers, $15 million for youth homelessness and $28 million to improve safety at Western State Hospital and other psychiatric hospitals. Read the full details here.

To cover costs from last year’s devastating fire season, the budget uses $190 million in emergency “rainy day” funds.

House Democrats hold a press conference Tuesday.

House Democrats hold a press conference Tuesday.

House Democratic leaders told reporters Tuesday they did not get all they hoped in the supplemental budget — especially when it comes to the teacher shortage — but it represents a compromise.

Democrats had originally sought $38 million in rainy day funds to pay for homeless programs. That was dropped in the compromise budget, which instead focuses narrowly on youth homelessness and programs that pair schools with housing groups.

“When kids have a stable house and stay in that community, they really do a lot better in schools,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, the lead Democratic budget writer. “I think we did pretty well and we advanced the cause as much as we could in a limited year like this.”

Initially, Democrats proposed fixing the state’s teacher shortage by raising beginning teacher salaries from $35,000 a year to $40,000, paid for by eliminating six tax breaks. The final agreement does not give teachers pay raises, but it does include funding for a mentoring program that aims to keep teachers in the classroom longer. It also creates a task force to look at teacher compensation in the coming year.

“The shortage will grow, so the issue is stemming that. We made some initial progress this year, recognizing that we’ll have to come in next year and do more,” said Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said the budget “stuck to a true supplemental budget formula” by not raising taxes through the elimination of tax breaks or funding pay raises for teachers.

Schoesler said Republicans compromised on the budget by spending more overall than the $49 million that Republicans had initially proposed.

“We spent over six months last year passing a budget that was very good, got wide bipartisan support. We felt like we didn’t need to change things, so adding additional spending was an issue for us,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia.

On the House floor, several members in both parties praised the budget for taking incremental steps toward addressing the state’s teacher shortage and preparing the state for next year’s big budget challenges in fully funding McCleary obligations.

“It addressed a lot of surprises we saw this year and I think it’s a responsible and very thoughtful approach to setting ourselves up for success in the next biennial cycle,” said Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah.

Opponents of the budget say it will negatively impact some local communities and governments. Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, criticized the the budget for “short-changing” community mental health programs.

Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, also voted no on the budget because it takes money from the Public Works Assistance Account, which local governments use to pay for public works projects. As a former city councilwoman, she said she knows the value of the public works fund.

“Probably the most distressing part about that is that this is a sign of what’s going to happen over the next several biennium,” Pike said. “We’re going to continue to sweep those revenues.”

The Legislature adjourned Sine Die just before 11 p.m. Tuesday evening following passage of bills related to the budget. Members in both chambers also voted to override 27 vetoes by Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor had vetoed the bills at the end of the regular 60-day session as a way to spur lawmakers to come to a budget agreement faster.

Inslee held a late evening press conference Tuesday where he said he was supportive of the veto overrides now that the Legislature had completed its work. “We got the budget done,” Inslee said. “These bills passed, that’s fine with me.”

The governor warned that “heavy lifting awaits us next January” when lawmakers will come back to negotiate a new two-year operating budget, while also meeting the Washington Supreme Court mandate to fully fund basic education. 

Inslee said the bipartisan task force dedicated to school funding “needs to take its work very seriously so we can be assured we have all the information we need to tackle the tough decisions on Day 1 of the 2017 session.”

Categories: Budget

Gov. Jay Inslee discusses special session, signs bill giving pay raises to troopers

By | March 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that budget negotiators have reached “tentative agreements on a variety of important issues,” but have not yet reached a deal on a supplemental budget at the halfway point of the 30-day special session.

“They have tackled some very difficult issues and they have solved quite a number of them, so there has been real progress,” he said. “But they’re not done yet.”

The governor spoke to the media after signing nearly two dozen bills Friday afternoon. Watch TVW video of the bill signing and press conference.

Among the bills he signed was a supplemental transportation budget that makes about $507 million in changes to the state’s current two-year transportation budget. Inslee said the budget focuses on traffic relief, including funding for 10 new incident response trucks to clear collisions and additional capacity on Interstate 405.

Gov. Inslee signs a bill giving Washington State Troopers pay raises.

Gov. Inslee signs a bill giving Washington State Troopers pay raises.

Inslee also signed a bill giving Washington State Troopers a 5 percent pay raise starting in July. The state patrol has a high number of vacancies, in part because many troopers leave for higher paying jobs at local law enforcement agencies.

“Having worked with this group, they deserve this,” Inslee said before signing the bill in front of a group that included several troopers. “There’s more to come and we’re going to keep working on this.”

Categories: Budget

Senate Republicans release latest supplemental budget proposal

By | March 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

Senate Republicans publicly released a new supplemental budget proposal on Friday that makes a number of changes from the version previously passed off the Senate floor.

It would increase spending in the two-year current budget by $178 million, up from $34 million. It no longer counts savings from a controversial plan to merge the public pension for certain law enforcement officers and firefighters with a pension for retired teachers. And it taps into the rainy day fund to pay $190 million in costs associated with last summer’s wildfires in Eastern Washington.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said it is a “true supplemental budget” that balances over four years and addresses emergencies, while also fixing concerns that were raised with the previous proposal.

Senate Republicans Budget

Senate Republicans speak to media

“You’ll see a number of small issues that people had concerns with on both sides of the aisle that we’ve addressed,” Hill said.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said Democrats identified 15 concerns with the previous Republican proposal. The new version “addresses every single one of them,” he said.

“I think we’ve moved in a number of ways,” Braun said.

Watch TVW video of the Republican press conference here. 

House Democrats in February passed a separate plan off the floor that also uses the rainy day fund for wildfires, but spends significantly more overall and includes pay raises for teachers in an effort to improve the state’s teacher shortage.

House Democrats

House Democrats speak at press conference

House Democrats acknowledged Friday the budget moves closer to their position, but say they are disappointed in the way it was revealed.

Watch TVW video of the Democratic press conference here.

Lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Hans Dunshee said there are “some things in there we like and some places they came in our direction,” but they remain far apart on a few items. 

He said the Republican budget does not address the teacher shortage or women’s reproductive health. It also finds $13 million in savings by making changes to a program for the aged, blind and disabled.

“These are folks who have trouble accessing healthcare system and to move them from plan to plan for what we think is fictitious savings is dangerous for those people,” Dunshee said. 

Democrats say they submitted their latest budget offer to Republicans on Tuesday evening, and did not get a response until hours before the start of the special session on Thursday when they learned of the new Senate Republican plan.

“They spent time crafting their own budget rather than negotiating with us,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan. “Had this offer been made on Tuesday, we could have made substantial progress and maybe even finished our work before the end of session.”

Braun responded by saying Republicans spent those two days “trying to understand how or if [Democrats] were going to come off their current position.” He said Republicans felt it was time to share with the public what they believe the supplemental budget should look like.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the supplemental budget proposal on Friday. Watch TVW video of the hearing here. 

Categories: Budget

Lawmakers discuss final day of session, possibility of special session

By | March 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

Democratic and Republican legislative leaders told TVW’s Anita Kissee on Thursday they believe they might reach a supplemental budget deal by the end of the night, but it will likely take a special session to complete their work. The regular 60-day session ends at midnight Thursday.

Lawmakers spoke as part of a special Sine Die edition of “The Impact” at the Capitol. Watch interviews from the Sine Die show here.

“I’m disappointed we aren’t going to have something on the governor’s desk today,” said Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger. “There’s plenty of budget all over Olympia. But an agreed upon one, no.”

Budget writer Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said there might be a “handshake” deal tonight, followed by a period of time to check the document.

“This is a real document that does things,” Dunshee said. “You don’t just want to send a hundred million dollar check to uncle Bernie.”

Gov. Jay Inslee has threatened to veto bills if lawmakers did not have a budget deal by Thursday. The governor has also said he will immediately call lawmakers back into special session on Friday to complete a supplemental budget.

IMG_1171

Lawmakers on the set of the Sine Die show at the Capitol

Sen. Mark Shoesler, R-Ritzville said he was disappointed that negotiations are not where they should be. He emphasized the need for a four-year balanced budget.

“It should be important to every taxpayer in the state of Washington,” he said.” It brings stability to budgeting, predictability and honesty.”

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said the a four-year balanced budget is nonnegotiable and one of the main differences between the House and the Senate proposals.

“We need to resolve that. We can no longer kick the can down the road, like both parties use to do,” she said.

Democratic leadership from the House say their budget does comply with the four-year balanced budget requirements.

“We are within the law,” Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington said. “We moved more than halfway to the middle and I think that in good faith we are working toward that goal.”

Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, says that the House has been focused on other issues besides the budget. She said the Democratic budget team has been working as fast as possible, but “getting it done right takes precedence over getting it done right on time.”

Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, and Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, spoke on behalf of the House Republicans. Kretz said wildfires must be addressed in the supplemental budget, but it shouldn’t be remedied through the rainy day fund.

“There’s a temptation here to say ‘fire’ and go crazy on the budget stabilization account,” he said. “I think we need to be honest with what parts of the fire are truly emergency situations.”

Kristiansen said lawmakers remain at at a “stalemate” over the supplemental budget, in part because of a disagreement over whether or not to eliminate certain tax breaks.

Senate Democratic minority leaders Sen. Sharon Nelson, D- Maury Island, and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, say they are optimistic a deal will be struck by tonight.

“The governor has been exerting his leadership, keeping everybody talking and I’m hoping that by the end of the day we will at least have a budget agreement,” Nelson said.

Billig said this time last year there wasn’t any conversation going on about the budget.

“This year it’s a different atmosphere where everybody seems to be driving toward getting it done and the negotiations are on going,” he said.

Supplemental transportation budget approved by Legislature

By | March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Legislature has approved a supplemental transportation budget that gives Washington State Patrol troopers a pay raise and aims to fix congestion on the Interstate 405 corridor.

House Bill 2524 passed out of the House on Wednesday on a vote of 86-10. It was approved Tuesday by the Senate, 44-5.

The supplemental budget makes about $507 million in changes to the state’s two-year transportation budget, including additional money for ferries, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and better safety at the “jungle” homeless encampments in Seattle. It also has $45 million from toll funds to improve traffic on the Interstate 405 corridor.

“I’d like to remind everybody that we do two year budgets around here and it’s not a major change from what we did last year, but there are few new things,” Rep. Judy Clibborn, D- Mercer Island said in support. ”We have done good work working together with the Senate.”

405 tollThe budget also includes $5 million dollars for Washington State Patrol salary increases. Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, emphasized the need for higher salaries.

“We do need to bump their pay up a little bit. We are losing too many of them and I’m afraid we are going to lose too many more between now and the time we write the next biennial budget,” he said.

Immediately following the passage of the supplemental transportation budget, the House passed a related bill that aims to improve recruitment and retention of Washington State Patrol troopers.

House Bill 2872 directs state agencies to implement the recommendations of the Washington State Patrol Trooper Recruitment and Retention Study released in January, which includes paying competitive salaries. The bill passed out of the House, 92-4, and out of the Senate, 47-1.

Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said the salary increases will be staged, rather than dispersed at one time. It includes a five percent increase for troopers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

“We are losing a lot of great state patrol officers through retirement,” he said. “Lots of the troopers are leaving for greener salaries and other law enforcement agencies.”

Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, said that he was a reluctant yes vote.

“I’m not reluctant because of the pay that it dedicates to our troopers. I’m reluctant because it’s not enough to stop the bleeding,” he said. “I don’t believe that its going to be enough commitment.”

The bill specifies that WSP trooper salaries must be the “average compensation paid to the corresponding rank” of law enforcement officers at six other agencies around the state — including the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department. To determine that average compensation, the bill directs the Office of Financial Management to conduct a survey of each of the six agencies.

Both bills now go the governor for his signature.

Republican leaders offer update on session

By | March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

With only a few days left of session, Republicans from the House and Senate held a press conference Tuesday addressing the ongoing supplemental budget negotiations, charter schools and the DOC investigation.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here. 

Supplemental Budget

According to Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, one of the main hangups in budget negotiations has to do with whether the supplemental budget includes projected expenditures for K-3 class size reductions.

“One very enormous factor is pretending that we are not going to fund K-3 class size in the next biennium,” Schoesler said.

DSC_0789Republicans also want the Democratic-controlled House to pass a bill that would keep charter schools open in Washington.

“I think that one of the things that’s a little bit different is we’ve yet to take any action on charter schools,” said Rep. JT Wilcox, R-Yelm. “We hope to have that taken care of in the next couple days.”

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said that House is close to moving a compromise bill, but probably wont see any action until Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee veto threat

Schoesler said that he thinks there are bipartisan problems with the governor’s threat to veto bills if lawmakers don’t agree to a supplemental budget. He said that there are 37 bills on the governor’s table and that that would be “a very poor decision.”

“We are still committed to doing the right thing and the right thing is a four-year balanced budget that takes care of the priority needs of the state,” he said.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said there are a number of bills from both Republicans and Democrats that would be difficult for the governor to veto.  “I don’t know how serious he was in actually vetoing or if it was more of a rhetorical statement,” he said.

DOC investigation

Sen. Padden said that he does not anticipate anymore DOC hearings this session, but said the investigation is still ongoing. “We are still getting comments and leads and communications from DOC workers,” he said.

Padden said that there will be a written Senate report released in April or early May. Padden also responded to the governor’s decision to replace Former DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke with Dick Morgan as acting secretary.

“We’ll see how he does,” Padden said. “I would have preferred he brought somebody new in from outside that wasn’t part of this system and this culture that’s been there.”

Gov. Jay Inslee discusses budget negotiations, DOC investigation

By | March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee said at a press conference Monday he will veto bills if lawmakers do not come to an agreement on a supplemental budget by Thursday, the final day of session.

“We have four days left in this session and there is no reason for them not to get this budget done on time,” Inslee said.

Inslee said he met with Democratic and Republican leaders and budget negotiators Monday morning, and told them he will not “entertain any delays.”

“There are currently about 35 bills on my desk awaiting my signature and hundreds more are coming down the pipe,” Inslee said. “This morning I let leadership know that they should not expect me to sign bills until they reach a budget agreement.”

Watch TVW video of the press conference here. 

DSC_0788Inlsee also gave an update on the Department of Corrections sentencing error that resulted in the early release of more than 3,000 prisoners.

The governor named Dick Morgan to serve as acting secretary of the agency. Morgan retired in 2010 as director of prisons after a 30-year career with the DOC.

Inslee said new leadership is part of the DOC effort to “rebuild trust and implement systemic reforms.”

“This is a interim position,” Inslee said. “But we don’t want to wait months to start the improvements that are going on now.”

Morgan will be replacing Dan Pacholke, whose expected last day is Thursday.

The governor said he’s also taken other personnel action in the wake of the sentencing error.

Two people at DOC have been demoted — a risk manager and a former business manager — and letters of reprimand have been issued to an IT business analyst and a senior records manager.

Additionally, the DOC’s former chief information officer has resigned from his position at another state agency.

The disciplinary actions follow an independent investigation into the DOC error released by the governor’s office in February. Inslee said a supplemental report will be released later this week with employee responses to the initial investigation.

Drunk driving victims, lawmakers urge passage of stronger DUI laws

By | March 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

A bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference Monday to call on the Legislature to pass harsher drunk driving laws before session ends on Thursday.

Lawmakers want action on Senate Bill 5105 and House Bill 2700, which would both expand existing DUI laws. The Senate bill would allow for a felony prosecution on a person’s fourth DUI conviction. The House bill would speed up the process for drunk drivers to have their driver licenses suspended.

“Washington currently has one of the weakest felony DUI laws in the country,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who is sponsoring the Senate bill. He said that of the 46 states that have felony DUI laws, Washington is the only state that requires five DUI convictions within 10 years before it’s a felony.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here. 

Both bills are tied to the House and Senate supplemental budgets, which are currently being negotiated.

DSC_0785“We are going to continue to work with the budget negotiators in both the transportation and operating budget to get both the House and Senate to emphasis the absolute importance of these pieces of legislation,” Padden said.

Lawmakers were joined by families of DUI victims including Joan Davis, a board member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Her daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 2008.

“Our offender, our killer has been a repeat offender after the DUI homicide conviction,” Davis said. “He’s been back in jail one time. We’ve got to get these people off the roads and we’ve got to keep them off the road.”

The Senate bill would cost the state about $10 million every two years when fully implemented, but Davis said the cost is greater than that. “Personally, I don’t care what it costs, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “You can never replace the lives that have been lost.”

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, is sponsoring the House bill. He said that offenders are finding ways to work the system.

“The tragedies continue despite all our good work…and we really want these pieces of legislation to pass this session to send a strong message and to achieve the objectives of reducing deaths on our road ways,” Goodman said.

Dan Schulte and his wife, Karina, were also at the press conference. He said that in 2013 him and his wife, Karina, welcomed their new son, Elias. (more…)

Categories: Budget, TVW, WA House, WA Senate

Retired police officers, firefighters respond to Senate’s pension merger proposal

By | March 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on a bill that would combine a public pension plan for certain law enforcement officers and firefighters with a plan for retired teachers.

Senate Bill 6668 merges the assets and liabilities of a police officers and firefighters closed retirement plan, LEOFF 1, with another teachers’ closed retirement plan, TRS 1.

The projected surplus of LEOFF 1 is about $1.2 billion, while TRS 1 is in a deficit of nearly $3 billion.

The proposed pension merger is part of the Senate Republican majority’s supplemental budget plan. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, told reporters in February that merging the two plans is more efficient.

“When you put them together, that reduces the net payments to reduce our pension liability and it saves money,” he said. “It saves about $2 billion over ten years in taxpayer money.”

It also allows the state to pay off the TERS 1 plan’s deficit three years early, Braun said.

Police officers and firefighters came out in strong opposition to the proposal Wednesday. They say they are being repaid for years of service by having their retirement fund raided.

“We protected your families every day. Every night, everyone of you, your wives, your husbands, your children were protected by us,”said Bradd Reynolds, a retired police officer drawing on LEOFF 1. “We’d like you to do the same for us.”

The bill also gives LEOFF 1 members a one-time payout of $5,000. Reynolds dismissed that payout.

“Offering me $5,000 to kind of sit in the corner and be quiet just let this pass – I think that’s embarrassing,” he said “I think the general taxpayers across the state would be upset if they thought that police officers and firefighters are going to get a payoff to be quiet and let a bill pass off into the night.”

Gail Hall testifying at Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Gail Hall testifying at Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Gail Hall, the spouse of a retired firefighter, said that the state is stealing from the fund. She said that teachers have a different job responsibilities, so their retirement plan should be separate.

“If anybody’s pension funding should be raided, it should be the Legislature’s pension funding because they are the ones who have got the teachers in this mess,” she said.

Joyce Williams represents people drawing paychecks from the LEOFF 1 pension fund. She said she has heard from elderly retirees calling her everyday worried that something might happen to their pension.

“These people are depending on their pension and a promise made should be a promise kept,” she said.

Matthew Jackmond was a firefighter for 32 years. He is drawing from a different LEOFF retirement plan, but he said that this is an attempt by the Legislature to “do another end-run at the eleventh hour.”

“We LEOFF members have fought long and hard to keep our pensions systems fully funded and repeal the constant attracts by the Legislature –  attacks meant to fix your lack of ability to fund your projects,” Jackmond said.

No one spoke in support of the bill, but Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R- Puyallup, asked the committee staff what would happen to the merged pension plans if there was a financial collapse.

Staff said that retirees “do not bear the risk of loss” and the state is constitutionally obligated to make the payments. The plan’s sponsor, the state of Washington, bears the risk of loss in the investments, according to staff.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Categories: Budget, TVW, WA Senate, Ways & Means

Gov. Inslee signs basic education funding plan bill

By | March 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the first bill of the 2016 legislative session on Monday, laying out a process to fully fund basic education by 2018.

Senate Bill 6195 requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies. It also collects data on teacher compensation and how local school levy dollars are being spent.

“The Legislature has continually made progress on fully funding education, and this bill is the next necessary step in that process,” Inslee said before signing the bill.

DSC_0759The plan also creates a legislative task force to continue working on the issue before the 2017 legislative session.

“This will recommit that the Legislature is ready in 2017 to live up to these commitments to fulfill our constitutional obligations to fund education,” Inslee said.

He said that the next step is “arguably the most complex,” but is optimistic that lawmakers will “complete the task.”

Following the bill signing, Inslee spoke with reporters about the progress of negotiations on the supplemental budget proposals. He said that lawmakers from the House and the Senate met with him Monday morning to start negotiations for a final plan. He said that he is confident that Legislature will come up with an agreement before the session ends on March 10.

Read more on the proposed supplemental budgets here. 

“There’s absolutely no reason that these legislators operating in good faith should not be able to come up with a budget with in this period of time,” Inslee said. “There’s no reason to go into overtime. I made that abundantly clear.”

Watch TVW video of press conference here.