And just like that…
It’s over. On Thursday, the legislature adjourned sine die as scheduled. Even sans pandemic, the days of large sine die celebrations are long gone. Still, it’s rather anticlimactic when, after 60 days of high energy bombast and bluster, you put session to bed by closing your Zoom window. WSAC staff will provide a full end-of-session report highlighting counties’ big wins and losses in the coming weeks, but we leave you with these final legislative blog posts in the meantime.
By the Numbers
60 days, over 2,100 bills (including the carryover from last session), $64.1 billion supplemental operating budget, almost $17 billion for the 16-year Move Ahead Washington transportation package (Transportation Summary), $57 million per year raided from the Public Works Assistance Account to help fund the transportation package.
The Operating Budget
This year’s Supplemental Operating Budget (Operating Budget Summary) does a lot more than address changes in caseloads and the things a supplemental year would normally cover. The legislature added $5 billion in spending to last year’s $59 billion plan, passing a $64.1 billion supplemental budget and leaving almost $3 billion in reserve, and transferring $2 billion into the transportation budget. The budget invests in behavioral health, continues to address needs arising from the Blake decision, increases vendor rates and state employee salaries, adds a cost-of-living adjustment to PERS 1 retirees, funds homelessness reduction efforts, shores up the paid family medical leave program, increases education funding, continues investments in COVID response, and so on. It also includes an extra $5 million to local governments in revenue sharing from cannabis sales.
The Capital (Construction) Budget
Likewise, this year’s Capital Budget (Capital Budget Summary) also spends on housing, behavioral health, and schools. It grants $120 million in spending authorization to the Public Works account for money they probably no longer have. It adds $25 million to Public Works, $50 million to the state broadband office, and $25 million to the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) for broadband infrastructure loans and grants.
As for policy legislation, much of what we started with didn’t make it to the end. Despite a valiant last-minute effort by our coalition, HB 1333 didn’t make it. The bill would have extended the date for the .09 rural counties public facilities tax credit until 2054. For the second year, the bill died in the Senate; however, SB 5868, which expands the use of the credit to include workforce housing, did pass. SB 5796 rejiggers the cannabis funds and gains you that extra few million dollars. It’s on its way to the governor’s office, too. A controversial bill to repeal the state’s ergonomics initiative (limiting what the Department of Labor & Industries can regulate) did not pass the Senate after an all-night-long floor fight in the House. The hard-to-understand automatic decision systems bill, SB 5116, failed again this year. The Public Works Board got what they wanted on broadband policy, but the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) did not. HB 1921, which would have allowed payment in lieu of taxes for solar and wind farms also died.
The governor has 20 days from adjournment to take action on the bills that passed. He can approve the bill entirely and sign it, veto a section or several sections of a bill, or veto the bill in its entirety. Unlike elsewhere, the governor cannot veto a word or sentence in a bill and, in order to veto a bill, he must proactively do so. There’s no such thing as a pocket veto in Washington State. If the governor does not sign a bill, it still becomes law.
What’s Next for WSAC
As for WSAC staff, we will finish our end-of-year summaries and move immediately into planning for next session. The legislative session always begins on the second Monday of January, and the time always ends up passing too fast. Thank you for your interest and support this session. We look forward to working with you to prepare for the next one.