Senate unveils bi-partisan 2014 supplemental budget proposal. Passage expected later this week.

February 25, 2014

In a press conference Monday afternoon, state Senate leaders from both parties released the Senate’s proposed 2014 supplemental to the 2013-15 budget. The legislature generally writes a supplemental budget in the second year of a budget cycle to make adjustments for changing conditions, such as fluctuations in state services and revenue projections.

The Senate budget proposes to increase spending by about $96 million for the remainder of the two-year budget period. The proposal would add $52 million in education funding, including $38 for primary education technology and supplies and $5 million for financial aid to students who were brought to the United States illegally as children. The remainder, about $44 million, would go toward additional state costs such as increased caseloads for state prisons.

The budget also extends current tax breaks for high tech development and research and includes a tax exemption for honeybee producers in the state.

Some $60 million in tax collections and declining social services caseloads will keep this budget balanced, according to Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond), the Ways and Means Committee Chairman. The Committee’s ranking Democratic member, Sen. James Hargrove (D-Hoquiam), added that the proposed supplemental budget is balanced without any cuts to social safety net programs.

Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) said that he and other Democrats would support the budget and that there was bipartisan agreement to “decouple” the supplemental budget from possible increases in education funding called for by the state supreme court. 

Last month Governor Jay Inslee proposed $200 million in additional education spending, including cost-of-living (COLA) pay increases for teachers. He proposed ending a number of tax breaks to pay for the increases.  The state COLA would be on top of teacher pay increases provided each year by local districts.

Sen. Hill also pointed out that the supplemental budget was released a full day ahead of the public hearing on it scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, marking the first time in recent memory that legislators and the public had more than a few hours to review it. 

Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) the Majority Coalition leader said over the weekend that the supplemental budget would likely pass the Senate by the end of the week. House leaders have not yet released their version of a supplemental budget, but Governor Inslee, in a statement Monday, urged the Democrat-controlled House to put more money into education funding and to fund higher teacher pay increases.

The budget actions come just over two weeks before the scheduled end of the legislative session on March 13th. This coming Friday, February 28th is the last day for committee action on non-budget-related bills from the opposite house. Monday, March 3rd is the deadline for committee action on fiscal and transportation bills.

Look for News updates, as the lawmakers head for the finish line of this legislative session.