Legislature Adjourns On-Time, Invests $200 Million to Fight Coronavirus, OK’s No-New-Taxes Budget

Washington’s Democrat-led Legislature adjourned for the year Thursday night, with a no-new-taxes budget and a hefty war chest to fight coronavirus. Dan Frizzell from the House Democratic Caucus has more.

SULLIVAN: “If our economy continues to be hit by this really horrible virus then we will have funds available to mitigate those impacts.”

State lawmakers came into the session in January looking to increase affordable housing supplies, strengthen the ailing behavioral health system, invest in nursing homes, rural health clinics and childcare centers, and push back against climate change. They hadn’t planned on the state becoming the U.S. epicenter of a virus they’d never heard of. They ended their session claiming victories in those priorities, and set aside two hundred million dollars to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Representative Pat Sullivan, majority leader of the House Democrats and a key member of the chamber’s budget-writing team, reflected on what he called a successful effort to multi-task.

SULLIVAN: “We rallied together, Republicans and Democrats, in a way that moves this state forward. I’m really proud to be a part of this institution that recognizes the fact that we need to invest in people’s lives, but also be responsible. And I think we’ve done a great job of meeting those needs this year.”

Sullivan, from Covington, said lawmakers left reserves of about three billion dollars to guard against increased coronavirus expenses and further impacts of the virus on the state’s economy. In Olympia, Dan Frizzell.

House approves final supplemental budget addressing emergent needs across state

The House gave final approval Thursday to a supplemental state operating budget focused on the state’s emergent needs such as housing insecurity and homelessness, child care access and affordability, and health care access. It also passed legislation transferring $200 million from the state’s Budget Stabilization Account to help respond to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The final supplemental budget leaves $3 billion in total reserves, helping better position the state for an uncertain economic outlook. At the same time, it invests in priorities House Democrats identified at the beginning of the session.

“People across the state are hurting and need our help. That’s why we’re addressing housing insecurity and homelessness. It’s why we’re making sure child care centers and nursing homes stay open. It’s why we’re providing more counselors for elementary schools. We’re stepping up and making sound decisions for the future of our state,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington).

New investments in the supplemental budget include nearly $160 million targeted for immediate shelter needs of the state’s growing homeless population and support for new affordable housing programs.

Another $153 million is slated to increase access to child care for working families, strengthen the foster care system, expand early learning programs, and other increases.

Health care investments include a 15 percent increase to Medicaid primary care rates, support for rural health clinics, and increased funding for foundational public health.

“Behind every one of these appropriations and behind every word in the budget, you’ll see our theme of putting people first. The budget makes prudent and responsible investments in the things that matter most and that we need most, particularly right now,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane), chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Additional guidance counselors for high poverty elementary schools, an increase in nursing home Medicaid rates, and funding for climate resiliency and mitigation are other investments targeting emergent needs.

The House also passed EHB 2965, which transfers $200 million from the Budget Stabilization Account to respond to the outbreak of COVID-19. From that amount, $175 is slated for helping to slow the spread of the virus and for treatment of those infected. The remaining $25 million is for assistance to businesses forced to temporarily lay off employees as a result of the outbreak.

Final budget documents and summaries can be found here.