The Republican-led Washington Senate rejected 19 amendments offered by Democrats. The chamber eventually voted 25-22 in favor of adding about $34 million to the two-year, $38 billion operating budget adopted last year.
OLYMPIA — A day after the House passed its supplemental budget proposal, the Senate approved its own plan Friday, sending both sides into negotiations for a final version as lawmakers enter the last two weeks of the legislative session.
The Republican-led Senate rejected 19 amendments offered up by Democrats. The chamber eventually voted 25-22 in favor of a plan that would add about $34 million to the two-year, $38 billion operating budget adopted last year.
The proposal would direct about $173 million for addressing damage caused by last summer’s wildfires that destroyed more than 300 homes and burned 1 million acres, as well as provide more than $54 million to address safety issues at Western State Hospital and aid other mental-health services.
It would also keep charter schools open by supplying them with $6.6 million from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account. Last year, the charter-school system was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in part because of the way it was funded.
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Democrats argued during floor debate on the proposal that the budget doesn’t do enough to aid the rising number of homeless students in the state, the mental health system, public schools and more.
Sen. Andy Hill, a Republican from Redmond and the Senate’s main budget writer, repeatedly insisted the supplemental budget is for emergencies, identifying wildfire damage as an example.
“We spent six months last year writing a good budget, making some very historic investments,” Hill said. “The supplemental budget is not where we do major adds and major new policy adds.”
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, added the state doesn’t have enough money to address every issue brought up by Democrats this session.
The supplementary spending proposal from the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives would alter the two-year budget by about $467 million and includes $317 million from the state’s emergency fund million to pay for reducing homelessness, wildfire damage and more.
The Senate’s plan doesn’t dip into the emergency fund, and instead uses budget cuts and other measures opposed by many Democrats to save money, such as merging the pension plans of some firefighters, teachers and law enforcement.
Another would redirect money from regional mental health services that aren’t part of the state’s main psychiatric hospitals.
“Our families and our communities are struggling to help those with untreated mental illnesses and this budget falls short for them,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, during floor debate. “In real terms, this budget actually represents a step back.”