Advocacy Update – April 2023
This Month in Advocacy: We are in the final weeks of the legislative session and are watching the progress of the March Revenue Forecast as well as Operational, Capitol and Transportation Budgets.
We have reached the final weeks of the 105-day state legislative session. Tuesday, April 4, was the opposite house fiscal committee cut-off, where all bills that passed the House needed to be out of their Senate fiscal committee, and all bills that passed the Senate needed to be out of their House fiscal committee to remain alive. The legislation that advanced currently sits in the Rules Committee of the respective chamber, where members will select which bills to pull to the floor for a vote. All bills must fully pass out of their opposite chamber by April 12th to have the opportunity to move forward this year. As a reminder, all bills deemed “necessary to implement the budget” are not subject to these cut-offs. They remain in play through the last day of the session, April 23. Many of our priority bills made it through and are still in play, including middle housing, climate updates to the GMA, and clean energy siting.
On March 20, the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its most recent revenue forecast, which the final state budgets will be based on. The forecast showed that over the next two years, the state is likely to bring in less revenue than predicted in November. In fact, the forecast of funds is $483 million less than expected for the 2023-25 biennium and $541 million less for the 2025-27 biennium. This is attributed to a decline in residential construction, slower growth in personal income, and high inflation. The March forecast is used as a guide for budget writers as they finish crafting their respective budget proposals for the upcoming biennium. We expect this forecast to have an impact on state spending.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee Operating Budget proposal introduced by Chair Christine Rolfes passed on a bipartisan 40-9 vote. The $69.2 billion, two-year budget increases funding for vital state services, including targeted support for behavioral health, public schools, housing, and homelessness, and a historic investment to address the climate crisis. The two-year operating budget adds roughly $5 billion in new spending and does not rely on any new general taxes or fees. It leaves more than $3 billion in total reserves to guard against an economic slowdown.
The House budget introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chair Timm Ormsby appropriates $69.5 billion for the 2023-25 biennium. Also referred to as “Resilient Washington”, the proposal is viewed by House Democrats as both responsible and sustainable. It maintains critical investments made over the last few years and increases support for K-12 education, workforce development, and poverty reduction. It also prioritizes maintaining funding and programs expanded during the pandemic to protect the most vulnerable Washingtonians.
• $25 million for biodiversity protection
The House Democrats proposed capital budget would fund a record-breaking $8.3 billion in construction projects throughout the state, including $704 million dedicated to affordable housing and home upgrades as well as $318 million for clean energy and climate projects.
The Senate Democrats’ $7.9 billion proposed capital budget, which passed out of the Senate with unanimous support, makes historic investments in affordable housing, behavioral health, environmental protection, school construction, and public safety. Notable investments include $400 million for the Housing Trust Fund, part of a total of $625 million for housing investments, and $100 million for school construction in small rural and tribal districts.
House Transportation Committee Chair Jake Fey released his proposal for the second supplemental transportation budget for the 2021-23 biennium, which would spend $10.3 billion, and the new transportation budget for the 2023-25 fiscal biennium, which would spend $13.6 billion. This budget puts significant funding toward eliminating major highway project delays, reducing carbon emissions as part of the Climate Commitment Act, improving traffic safety, and investing in our state ferry system.
Senate Transportation Committee Chair Marko Liias released his proposal for the second supplemental transportation budget for the 2021-23 biennium, which would spend $10.6 billion, and the new transportation budget for the 2023-25 fiscal biennium, which would spend $12.9 billion. Much like the proposal in the House, the Senate proposal focuses on traffic safety, workforce expansion in the state patrol and ferry system, electrification, transit, and other green investments and keeps work on schedule for transportation projects big and small throughout Washington.
For questions about any of these bills or other legislation under consideration, contact Samantha Morrow.