Submitted by Sen. Steve O’Ban’s Office.
With the recent announcement that the state could expect an additional $1.5 billion in extraordinary revenue, bringing the total to $2.4 billion over four years, the Legislature has the opportunity to give the people what they want — $30 car tabs and property tax relief.
Unfortunately, the budget, which passed off the Senate floor this week, ignores that opportunity and provides no meaningful tax relief for the average Washingtonian.
No $30 car-tab fees. No property tax relief. And the money appropriated to increase Medicaid reimbursements to skilled-nursing facilities will not stop the closures threatening the care of our elderly population.
Even the money the budget allocates to help the homeless has limited focus. The surplus should have allowed us to not only provide some additional temporary housing, but also to increase substance-abuse treatment, mental-health treatment, job training and public-safety improvements. Homelessness is a complex problem. My colleagues and I introduced legislation this year as part of a comprehensive homelessness response. But this budget only scratches the surface.
Here are some important facts about the Senate supplemental operating budget:
- Represents nearly 20-percent growth in state spending, which is the highest in 30 years
- Increases spending $1.1 billion in this biennium alone
- Spreads the extra revenue thinly across various agencies, providing no substantive help to anyone
- Spends the $2.4 billion surplus down to $0
- Contains 13 different tax increases, raising $26 billion over 10 years
- Puts $100 million into a “climate resiliency” account, but without any current guidelines for how the money will be spent
If this budget becomes law, it will mean that the rate of government spending during the current administration will hit twice the rate of wage growth in Washington. Outside of King County, where wage growth is slower, it represents an even wider gap. (See chart above.)
What are some good things that are included in the Senate’s supplemental operating budget? (The items in red result from legislation I sponsored.)
- $24 million per biennia for skilled-nursing facilities (see below)
- $13 million to exempt behavioral health providers from the business tax increase
- Expands postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year after delivery
- Increases Medicaid rates for primary care providers
- $50 million in additional funding for improvements benefiting individuals with developmental disabilities, including eliminating the waiting list for services
- $100 million to construct a behavioral-health hospital at the University of Washington
- $38 million to increase staffing at Western State Mental Hospital
In the end, the supplemental operating budget that becomes law likely will be a combination of this budget with the House version. I’ll update you when I know more about how this final product will look. You can read more about what’s in the budget here.
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