February 28, 2020
Senate passes spending bill to add more than a billion dollars to record high two-year state budget
Senate majority Democrats pushed through their version of a supplemental spending plan on Thursday, to add some $1.2 billion to the state’s already record high two-year operating budget. The House Appropriations Committee approved its version (HB 2325) of new spending yesterday, and consideration by the full House began this afternoon after Democratic leaders sent the Senate-passed bill straight to the House floor.
The Senate bill, SB 6148, would bring total state operating spending to some $56 billion for the two-year fiscal period that ends June 30, 2021. The bill passed along partisan lines by a 33-16 vote. Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting for it. Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Mason County), who often votes with Republicans, was the only Democrat who opposed it.
Democrats said during debate that the bill would not impose major tax increases, beyond the new taxes on business owners that lawmakers already imposed earlier this year. They said their plan would increase spending with “important and valuable investments focused on areas that need to be addressed right now, including programs to fight homelessness and secure affordable housing, improve the environment and boost spending on mental health care.”
Republicans called the bill’s reliance on temporary, unexpected tax collection increases financially risky, because it could lead to future budget cuts or more tax increases when an economic downturn strikes. They also criticized the Democrats’ plan saying they were “disappointed the majority would spend every last dime instead of providing any tax relief or making long-term investments.”
Nearly three dozen amendments were proposed during debate on the bill, including a proposal by Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-Piece County) to require that any new boost in tax collections between now and the next economic forecast in September be used to lower property taxes next year. The amendment was voted down, as was a proposal by Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn) that would have used the sales tax collected on vehicle sales to help fund transportation projects that are facing a deficit if Initiative 976 is upheld by the courts.
In closing remarks, Sen. Braun (R-Centralia), the Republicans’ budget lead, said he would vote for the Senate bill and send it to the House, because overall it is “likely to be less onerous than the House bill.” He said that, in any event, once each chamber approves its respective version, House and Senate leaders would work to produce an agreed-upon version behind closed doors to send to Governor Inslee for his signature. The House and Senate are both controlled by Democrats.
Today is the cut-off deadline for policy bills to be approved by committees in the opposite
chamber. Among the bills that will meet this deadline and move to the floor for consideration by the full House are SB 5339, to repeal the state’s death penalty and SB 5395, to impose a new mandatory sex education program for school children. Both bills were approved by House committees yesterday. The House Finance Committee yesterday also approved HB 2945, which would repeal the tax rate preferences for The Boeing Company and would increase business taxes on hundreds of firms in the aerospace industry.