Welcome to the 4th quarter of the 2022 legislative session. Much like a Seattle Seahawks game, this is where it gets exciting. With just two weeks left, only the fiscal committees have yet to finish their work – the final deadline to move bills out of committee is February 28. After that, it’s all floor sessions and budget negotiations.

House and Senate Democrats have released all of their budget proposals, and the House Republicans have also released a proposed Operating Budget – though it won’t get a hearing. Both chambers have passed their versions out of committee, and floor action is expected soon. Negotiations should start next week.

This is a supplemental budget year, so the proposals make changes to the two-year $59 billion Operating Budget passed last year. But with so much new revenue available, there’s a lot of new spending, too. With both nearly 800-page bills released on Monday morning and the hearings on Monday afternoon, there wasn’t much time for review before public input was required. However, WSAC staff has fully reviewed each version, and comparison documents are linked here – Operating, Capital, Transportation. Staff will remain vigilant to ensure the best possible results for counties as Legislators jockey for position in the final versions.

Some similarities exist in both versions of the operating budget.

  • The Senate bill includes just under $6 billion in new spending, while the House comes in at just over $6 billion.
  • Both include a $2 billion transfer from the Operating Budget to the Transportation Budget to help pay for their proposed transportation package.
  • Both drafts utilize federal COVID relief funds of around $1 billion.
  • Both include funds to keep the state’s paid family leave program solvent but differ somewhat on the amount.
  • They also include $125 million a year for economic development and social justice grants to communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
  • The Senate leaves over $3 billion in reserves, while the House saves over $2 billion for rainy days.

As for their treatment of counties, there’s very little change in the transportation drafts, and the bills are largely the same. In the Capital Budget, both include additional broadband funds but in different ways and differing amounts. The House puts more money into the Housing Trust Fund and additional investments in housing and shelters, and the House spends almost double on specific projects for clean energy. The Senate includes $3 million for the Voluntary Stewardship Program, but the House does not.

In the Operating Budget proposals, the Senate includes an additional $11 million in Marijuana Excise Tax revenue, but they also assume passage of a Senate bill that the House would not. Both include the state portion of funding for a PERS 1 retirement COLA, a sure sign that bill will pass if there was ever any doubt. The House includes more funding for broadband-related matters. Both include funds for elections issues but in different amounts and ways. COVID response and public health funds are included in both but not exactly in the same way. WSAC’s budget comparison is 45 pages long – check it out for more information.