2019 legislative wrap-up: Who was in charge, what passed, and what didn’t

May 9, 2019

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Key Findings

  1. Lawmakers increased spending by $8 billion, to $52.4 billion, an increase of over 17%, the largest single-budget spending increase in 25 years.
  2. Due to the good economy, officials expected enough revenue to fund state programs.  Even so, they added some $2.5 billion in permanent new taxes.
  3. Lawmakers added another $4.4 billion to schools, bringing the education spending to $27.2 billion.  Public schools now get about $16,000 per student, more than most private schools receive.
  4. Lawmakers broke a 2017 promise not to raise local education taxes, so local levies across the state will likely increase next year.
  5. Lawmakers also imposed a statewide ban to block charter school families from sharing in local education funding.
  6. In major victories for the public interest, lawmakers defeated a proposed capital gains income tax and a costly carbon tax on daily energy use.
  7. Lawmakers also defeated a measure to ban private health insurance and place all residents into a mandatory government health program. 


The Washington State Legislature convened on January 14th and ended its 2019 session at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, April 28th, just in time to meet its scheduled closing for the planned 105-day session.  In doing so, lawmakers avoided the embarrassment of the 2017 session, when the normal 105-day session lasted 192 days, and almost led to a shut-down of state government.

Majority control in Olympia

As a result of the 2018 election, Democrats gained a clear majority in both houses of the Legislature.  Democrats hold a majority in the Senate of 27 to 22, and a majority in the House of 57 to 41.  In addition, under Governor Jay Inslee, Democrats currently hold the Washington governorship, as they have for 34 years, the longest of any state.

Washington is one of 14 trifecta states for Democrats, holding both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office.  Nationally, Republicans hold 22 trifecta states, and 14 states have divided government.

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