Lawmakers draft supplemental spending bill, plan to repeal Boeing tax benefits, as scheduled session enters final day

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With one day to go in this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers are wrapping up their consideration of hundreds of bills that survived the deadlines imposed by the legislature’s cut-off rules.

The major issue now remaining is reconciliation of the House and Senate versions of the supplemental spending plan for the remainder of the 2019-21 fiscal biennium. The supplemental budget bill, SB 6168, proposing record-high spending increases of more than a billion dollars, passed each chamber along partisan lines last week, and lead House- and Senate budget writers have been meeting behind closed doors to iron out specific differences. 

A vote on the final version of the bill will likely occur later today or tomorrow, and legislative leaders say they expect lawmakers to finish their work by this year’s scheduled final adjournment of midnight, March 12th.

During the past few days, including Saturday, legislators have been meeting in marathon floor sessions to vote on bills that were sent to them from the opposite chamber, and to approve or reject changes made by the opposite house.

So far, 200 House Bills and 176 Senate bills have passed both chambers and will head to the governor’s desk for his action.  To date only one bill, SB 6492, a tax increase on business owners, has been enacted into law.

Both the House and the Senate last week unanimously passed HB 2965, to provide money from the state’s Disaster Response Account for the state response to the Corona Virus outbreak. The House version allocated $50 million, the Senate increased that to $100 million. As of today, the House has refused to agree to the Senate amendment, and the bill is back before the Senate to either drop its amendment or work out a compromise. A final vote will then have to be taken.

The Senate did agree to House amendments on SB 5323, imposing a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags, and approved the bill on final passage by a 33-15 vote on Monday. The House passed the bill on Saturday by a 67-29 vote. The bill makes illegal single-use plastic bags like those handed out by grocery stores and imposes an 8-cent fee per paper bag. Thicker plastic bags designed for re-use would be exempt, but would also be subject to an 8-cent fee. The bag fee will increase to 12 cents in 2026. The new statewide fee would  replace existing fees in jurisdictions such as Seattle, where retailers must charge a 5-cent fee per paper bag.

A bill to repeal a tax break for Boeing and hundreds of state aerospace businesses passed the Senate on Tuesday by a 43-5 vote. It now has to be approved by the House, before it heads to the governor for action.

The Boeing Company asked state lawmakers to roll back a preferential business-and-occupation tax rate that the World Trade Organization targeted as an illegal trade subsidy, but wanted the tax break to be restored once the trade dispute was resolved.  As passed on Tuesday, the bill would restore only a portion of the tax break if the company meets certain conditions, such as proving that a portion of its workforce, three-tenths of 1%, are apprentices. To keep the lower tax rate, the percentage of apprentices at Boeing and the rest of the state’s aerospace industry must be 1.5% by April 1, 2026, or within five years after the lower tax rate is reinstated. The bill is expected to pass the House before the session ends tomorrow.

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