The final operating budget was adopted via a conference committee report, meaning that the final document could not be amended – not for policy reasons or even technical errors – and the legislators were only allowed an up or down vote. All in all, with one significant exception related to the Model Toxics Control Act (see the post by Paul Jewell on MTCA and others for more detail on WSAC priorities), the budget was largely as expected.
Which is to say that it is somewhat disappointing but not surprising.
By the Numbers
1109 – the budget bill number
808 – the number of pages in the bill
417 – the number of times “county,” “counties,” and “local government(s)” are referenced in the budget bill
0 – the number of amendments allowed on final passage
104 – the day in session the budget was released (of 105)
The High – and Low – Lights
In the end, the operating budget presents a mix of both good and bad.
The legislature chose not to fund a cost of living increase for PERS 1 and TRS 1 employees, meaning that local governments are also not on the hook for additional retirement costs. However, as in the draft budgets, the legislature also chose not to increase the shared marijuana revenues this year as was originally intended.
They funded prepaid postage for ballot return envelopes but did not fund even year election costs.
The budget continues to sweep funds from the Public Works Assistance Account into the Education Legacy Trust Fund – to the tune of $160 million over the next two years. They fund additional law enforcement training classes and send additional dollars to the Municipal Research and Services Center.
They fund a violator bed rate increase at the amount provided in the House proposal, which is about half of what was provided in the Governor’s and Senate’s versions.
The final budget includes $1.1 million per year for Thurston County’s impact fees, but funds for extraordinary criminal justice costs are noticeably absent.
One-time funding is provided for pilot programs for veterans service officers in two rural counties. In a pleasant surprise twist, our public records bill that had seemingly died passed and was accounted for in the budget.
Funding is provided to expand medicolegal forensic investigation training for coroners and medical examiners. Studies in King, Chelan, and Spokane Counties are funded. $744,000 is provided to Clark County to cover the costs they incurred during the measles outbreak. And, billions are poured into behavioral health, which remains as complex and difficult to follow today as it was when the session began.
With all of the new tax revenue the state is raising this year, it is hard to see this budget as anything but one of the missed opportunities for counties. But, the fact also remains that it could have been much worse.