State lawmakers passed a $7.6 billion maintenance transportation budget, House Bill 1299, with near-unanimous votes during the last days of the special legislative session, but they remain far from agreement on an overall state spending plan for 2015-17
Today is the 15th day of the 30-day special session that started on April 29th in Olympia, State lawmakers are continuing work on forging a 2015-17 spending plan, a transportation budget and education funding reforms.
Legislative leaders announced they will wrap up this year’s regular 105-day session two days early, on Friday, April 24th. Lawmakers will be back in Olympia on Wednesday, April 29th, however, to begin a 30-day special session called by the governor.
This year’s regular legislative session ends Sunday, and while lawmakers will send several dozen more bills to the governor for his signature, they have not reached an agreement on a budget to keep the government operating over the next two years. Remaining issues include transportation spending and basic education funding.
Legislative leaders now say they must go to a special session. Governor Inslee may call lawmakers back immediately, or wait for leader to complete behind-the-scenes negotiations first.
House and Senate budget writers met this week to work on a compromise spending plan for 2015-17. The Senate passed a no-new-taxes proposal that would spend about $37.8 billion, while the House-passed plan calls for $38.8 billion that would require nearly $1.5 billion in additional taxes, including a tax on capital gains and a tax increase on service businesses.
Lawmakers rushed to pass hundreds of pieces of legislation ahead of today’s deadline for advancing most bills passed by the opposite chamber. Some 300 bills have passed both houses to date, and 60 measures have been sent to the governor for his signature.
With just over two weeks to go in the scheduled legislative session, state lawmakers spent long hours this week voting on dozens of bills. Measures not related to the state budget must pass both chambers by next Wednesday to remain viable.
On Thursday, House members passed a proposed transportation budget for 2015-17 by a 78-19 vote. The measure, House Bill 1299, would spend $7.7 billion in existing revenues. It includes provisions to repave nearly 2,100 miles of state highways and repair up to 50 structurally deficient bridges.
The Senate voted 26-23 on Monday to approve Senate Bill 5077, a proposed $38 billion spending plan for 2015-17. The proposal includes increases in basic education funding in response to the McCleary court decision, smaller class sizes in grades K-3, a 25% cut in tuition at public colleges and universities, and a $2,000 raise for every state employee.
The Senate-passed plan uses the projected $3 billion in extra revenue the state will receive to increase spending without imposing new taxes.
Lawmakers in both chambers debated their respective proposals for a 2015-17 state spending plan this week, shortly after unveiling and holding public hearings on them.
The House version promoted by majority Democrats, Substitute House Bill 1106, proposes nearly $39 billion in spending and $1.4 billion in new taxes. It passed after a few hours of debate by a 51-47 party line vote on Thursday. The House did not act, however, on the tax-increase bills needed to pay for the proposal.
Today is the last day for House and Senate committees to advance policy bills from the opposite chamber. Next Tuesday, April 7 is the last day for budget and transportation bills to be voted out of committee. Lawmakers will now focus on passing a two-year budget for 2015-17. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year in 25 days.
The House Appropriations Committee had scheduled a public hearing on the House version of the 2015-17 state operating budget for 1:30 p.m. today—just two hours after presenting it for the first time at a press conference in Olympia. Another meeting was scheduled for Saturday, possibly to pass the proposal out of committee.
In a letter on Wednesday, House Republican leaders urged House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) to allow more time for the public to review the hundreds of pages of the budget proposal before a public hearing.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate this week focused on committee hearings to consider bills sent to them from the opposite chamber, following last week’s legislative cut-off date. Neither chamber held floor votes on legislation.
Members assembled for a joint session on Wednesday to honor people from communities that distinguished themselves during rescue efforts at the Oso landslide disaster one year ago.
After last week’s flurry of last-minute bill actions ahead of a major deadline, House and Senate lawmakers have settled down to a round of committee hearings on bills sent over by the opposite chamber. There are now 323 house bills before the Senate and 348 senate bills before the House. Lawmakers are also working on measures that were not subject to last Wednesday’s cut-off, because they are bills related to revenue and spending
Lawmakers have introduced 2,338 bills this session. After Wednesday’s deadline for passing bills out of their house of origin, 323 House Bills and 348 Senate Bills are still eligible for further consideration, not counting budget and transportation matters, which will be taken up later in the 105-day Regular Session that is scheduled to adjourn on April 26th.