Washington Legislative Week in Review: Solving a $1.3 Billion Budget Shortfall

Figures released last Thursday by the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council show the state’s projected budget deficit has grown by $300 million. The change is primarily due to Medicaid services being more heavily used than originally projected and leaves lawmakers facing a roughly $1.3 billion budget shortfall, not counting additional money needed for the court-mandated funding increase for basic education.

House Republicans released a spending plan detailing proposed school funding Thursday as well. The plan puts an extra $900 million into education but doesn’t show how it will balance the state budget because it only addresses education, which the Republican minority says should be funded first and separately.

With last week’s key legislative deadline for bills to be approved in their houses of origin now in the rearview mirror, the Senate and House, when not occupied with budget proceedings, will each focus on considering bills that have already passed the opposite house.

Tomorrow’s revenue forecast will be followed by budget plans from Senate Republicans and Governor Inslee. Governor Inslee has said he will be releasing a list of tax exemptions this week that the legislature should do away with to help deal with the budget shortfall along with the extra money needed to meet the mandate from the state Supreme Court. A spokesman for the Governor said his list will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now that the Supreme Court has declared the voter-approved two-thirds requirement unconstitutional, tax breaks are easier to close, requiring only a simple majority as opposed to a two-thirds vote.

The House Business & Financial Services Committee held just one committee hearing last week, on the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA)-sponsored credit union bill. The Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee also held just one hearing, on portable electronic insurance, mobile homes, the other NWCUA credit union bill, speed limits on private roads, the Housing Trust Fund, and appraisal management companies.

Washington Credit Union Act – Senate Bill 5302 received a hearing on March 14 before the House Business & Financial Services Committee. The bill then received a do-pass recommendation and was referred to the House Rules Committee (14-0 with 1 excused).

Substitute House Bill 1582 received a hearing on March 14 before the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee.

Financial Literacy – House Bill 1173 received a hearing on March 15 before the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. The bill modifies membership and certain procedures and duties of the Financial Education Public-Private Partnership (FEPPP) and requires the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to make available to all school districts the curriculum for a course or courses in financial education. The Association testified in support of the bill.

Independent Contractor Relationships – Second Substitute House Bill 1440 did not receive a floor vote in the House before cutoff, and is now considered dead. The bill would have created a new test to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor for purposes of the new Employee Fair Classification Act, the Minimum Wage Act, the Wage Payment Act, and laws on prevailing wage, wage deductions, industrial insurance, and unemployment compensation.

 

Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team:

Jennifer Wagner, Vice President of Legislative Advocacy
Mark Minickiello, Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Pam Leavitt, Policy Advisor

Posted in Advocacy News.