First Week of Legislation Session

This week the 2018 legislative session began, only six months after the close of the last session. 2018 is supposed to be a “short”, fast-paced, 60-day session where instead of a full-blown budget package, only supplemental changes are made to the budget. The question on everyone’s mind this year is whether the Legislature will, in fact, be able to finish on time. There are some complexities to consider in answering this question.


Democratic Control

First, Democrats regained control of the Senate, giving them majority control of the entire legislature and Governor’s Office. However, this majority is only one vote in the Senate and two in the House, making governing challenging. It is in both parties interest to finish on time so that legislators focus can shift to fundraising for the 2018 election when Democrats want to expand their majority, and Republicans want to regain it in at least one chamber.


The Supreme Court

The second complexity is the Supreme Court’s decision that the state was still not in compliance with its McCleary decision on education funding. It is estimated that it will require an additional $1 billion in funding this fiscal year in order to gain compliance. The Governor proposed a carbon-tax to raise additional state funding and bridging the gap till when this revenue is raised by using money in the state’s “rainy day” fund. A carbon tax seems unlikely in a short session, but will the legislature come up with another $1 billion to satisfy the Supreme Court? This question will be challenging.


Hirst Still in Play

Third, there is still not agreement on a policy solution to the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, and Republicans still have enough seats in both the Senate and House to block passage of the bond bill that funds the state capital budget. Losing an entire construction season certainly brought a fine point to the issue, but Republicans haven’t given any indication that they’re ready to back down. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats don’t seem any more inclined to disappoint Washington tribes.


Property Tax Increases

Finally, property tax statements will arrive in taxpayers mailboxes around February 14, and all property owners will see an increase from last year’s education funding package. What ramifications will this have in the last three weeks of session? We’ll see…


Josh Weiss started working in Olympia in 1998 and in addition to spending the last 8 years at WSAC, has served as nonpartisan counsel to the House of Representatives, Legislative Director for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Environmental Policy Director for the Washington Forest Protection Association representing private forest landowners. Josh is a graduate of Central Washington University and the Vermont Law School, and is a fourth generation Washingtonian.

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