More than halfway through a 30-day overtime legislative session, lawmakers Monday announced an agreement on a state supplemental operating budget.
OLYMPIA — More than two weeks into an overtime legislative session, lawmakers announced a state budget agreement Monday that boosts spending for mental-health care, fighting wildfires and other priorities.
The agreement comes after weeks of haggling over the spending plan and follows vetoes by Gov. Jay Inslee of 27 bills after legislators failed to reach a deal during the regular legislative session.
Lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday on the agreement, according to a statement by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, the Legislature’s lead budget negotiators.
The updated spending plan — called a supplemental operating budget — adds about $191 million in new spending over the current $38.2 billion 2015-17 operating budget, according to a summary of the proposal. About $40 million of that is earmarked for mental-health programs and the state’s two psychiatric hospitals. The proposal also includes $7 million to help recruit and retain K-12 staff and support for beginning educators.
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Among other things, the compromise also includes $29 million to pay for the overtime of home health-care providers due to federal rule changes. And it spends $18 million to maintain state need-grant college funding and $8 million to help backfill tuition costs for state colleges and universities.
To pay for those, the compromise includes a handful of one-time transfers from programs. It also counts on $46 million by allowing the state Department of Revenue to use its authority to waive the penalties on the back taxes of royalty income owed by some companies, if those taxes are paid by October.
The agreement also uses $190 million in budget reserves to pay for last year’s record-setting wildfires.
“It’s not everything we wanted, of course, but that’s the reality of a divided government,” Dunshee said in the statement. “The only path forward is through compromise and that’s what we’ve done with this budget agreement.”
Lawmakers came to an “agreement in principle” Saturday night, according to House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.
“We’ve said all along we need to make progress in a number of key areas,” he said, “and I think we accomplish that with this budget.”
Finding money for those priorities accounted for much of the budget delay, Sullivan said.
“It was the resources … obviously we (Democrats) wanted to make more investments than they (Republicans) wanted to make,” he said, adding later: “It was the same thing all along, we just, you know, we both moved together in the end.”
The agreement cleared the way for lawmakers to wind down their work, including taking votes to override the vetoes issued by Inslee.
When the regularly scheduled legislative session ended March 10 without a budget deal, Inslee made good on his threat to veto bills already approved by lawmakers.
The action, he has said, was intended to focus lawmakers on completing the budget.
The 27 vetoed bills dealt with a broad range of issues, including pharmacy assistants, fire-sprinkler systems, wholesale vehicle dealers and industrial hemp growers.
Lawmakers can revive those bills with a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber. The Senate began taking those override votes Monday, and the House was expected to begin voting Tuesday.
Even before the agreement was announced, Inslee said he would begin signing bills again after the progress lawmakers had made during budget negotiations over the weekend.
“This information gives me the confidence I need to begin signing bills and clears the way for legislators to reconsider the bills I vetoed as a result of the lack of a budget agreement before the end of the regular session,” Inslee said Monday afternoon. “As I said previously, I have no objection to seeing these bills become law once a budget agreement is reached.”
Democratic lawmakers and Inslee proposed plans this session to spend more to address a statewide K-12 teacher shortage and a growing homelessness problem. Budget proposals put forth by Inslee and House Democrats would raise more revenue by rolling back some tax exemptions.
But GOP lawmakers have said supplemental budgets should only be used to make small corrections to existing budgets, rather than enacting new policies.
And both parties have struggled to agree on how to make the state budget balance over the next four years as required by law.
In their most recent budget proposal made public, Republicans said they would raise new revenue by changing an obscure tax provision for national network providers.
That deal would lower the share of national advertising income that out-of-state broadcasters should pay taxes on, while allowing for some back taxes to be paid up without a penalty.