Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned this week after a 60-day regular session and 20 days of special session. When lawmakers arrived in Olympia in January, we had many issues to address including saving public charter schools, funding wildfire recovery efforts and investigating the improper early release of more than 3,000 prisoners from Department of Corrections custody. We also had to work on a supplemental operating budget to account for changes since passing the 2015-17 operating budget last summer.
The budget passed this week contains some good items, however I voted against it because it was not a good deal for Clark County. I was very disappointed this budget continued to sweep funds from dedicated accounts. Below, I've highlighted the 12 accounts raided just this budget cycle. And while this budget does balance over four years as required by state law, the ending balance in 2019 is only $9 million. I believe spending nearly every dollar we take in is irresponsible. Next year, I hope we can produce a more fiscally responsible budget.
Also, with Clark County ramping up the integrated health services system, I am concerned about the budget's extremely low funding level for non-Medicaid and crisis mental health care reserves. As one of only two counties that are early adopters of this program, we are at a critical point in its development. We will be keeping a keen eye on this as the program develops.
The proviso I requested for the protection of members of the Washington National Guard at recruiting centers across the state was regrettably not included in the final budget. I have already spoken to the Adjutant General's office and will continue working on this during interim. I only pray there are no attacks on our recruiting centers in the meantime. Our military members make so many sacrifices on our behalf, we should show our gratitude by ensuring they can safely do their jobs.
Thankfully, the Legislature passed a bill to keep public charter schools opens across the state. The picture to the left was taken at a recent rally in support of charter schools and students. The governor has not yet signed the bill to keep the schools open, however it will become law on April 2 even if he doesn't take action. This is a big victory for students who may otherwise not reach their full potential in their local public schools.
Below my signature you will find additional details on the budget. You can also read the full budget by clicking here.
We closed session with a historic vote to override 27 vetoes issued by Gov. Inslee. Last month, he vetoed bills that would provide assistance to college students with disabilities, protect the environment and support our state's multi-billion dollar agriculture industry. The Legislature put partisanship and politics aside and voted to overturn his vetoes. I hope going forward the governor will take a different approach to working with the Legislature instead of punishing the people of Washington who would benefit from the bills we pass.
I am excited to get back home and spend time working in district. I look forward to visiting community groups, schools, and businesses throughout the 17th District and bringing those experiences back to the Legislature. Having the opportunity to work in our communities and bring local priorities to state government is what makes our citizen Legislature so special. I look forward to seeing you around town soon!
2016 supplemental operating budget
Here are some of the highlights of the supplemental operating budget. As you can see, there were some good programs funded in the budget. It's unfortunate it relies on fund transfers and exhausting the 2019 ending-fund balance to pencil out. The state should not live “paycheck to paycheck” with the people's tax dollars.
- $5.2 million for the BEST program and Paraeducator certification.
- $4.2 million for keeping public charter schools open.
- $7.8 million for reimbursing higher education institutions for last year's reductions in tuition.
- $18 million to maintain state need grant funding based on interactions with the College Bound program.
Early Learning and Child Care
- $12.6 million for family child care provider collective bargaining agreements.
- $9.5 million for compensation increases to certain mental health employees including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers.
- $2 million for expanding the number of mobile crisis teams.
- $6.8 million for additional state hospital registered nurses at Western State Hospital.
Corrections and Criminal Justice
- $1.6 million related to work release services.
- $388,000 to implement the Washington State Patrol Troopers recruitment and retention policy.
- $4.3 million for health home services.
- $29 million for home health care individual provider overtime related to a federal rule change.
- $190 million from the Budget Stabilization Account (separate legislation) for wildfire costs.
Below is a list of accounts raided by the 2016 supplemental budget. The Public Works Trust Fund was hit particularly hard, losing $16 million. Fund transfers have become a bad habit in Olympia and I believe we should keep our word when we dedicate funds.
2016 Fund Transfers (in millions)
- Public Works Trust Fund Balance: $16.0
- Employment Services: $3.0
- Washington Housing Trust Account: $3.0
- Aerospace Loan Account: $2.0
- Savings Incentive to GF (unspent balances): $1.1
- Charitable, Educational, Penal, and Reformatory Institutions: $1.0
- Labor Relations Account: $1.0
- Personnel Services Account Transfer: $0.5
- Professional Engineers Account Transfer: $0.5
- Real Estate Commission Account Transfer: $0.5
- Real Estate Research Account Transfer: $0.5
- Flood Control addition: $0.4
Total Fund Transfers to the General Fund: $29.4
Yours in service,
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000