Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It took a little more than two weeks of overtime but the Legislature finally adjourned with a bipartisan supplemental operating budget and no new taxes. Though I believe the job should have been done within the session's allotted 60 days, I'm thankful for the work of our budget negotiators who worked hard to reach a budget compromise.
In addition to passing the budget, the Legislature also voted to override all 27 of Gov. Jay Inslee's vetoes from March 10. In a failed attempt to spur budget negotiations, the governor vetoed 27 of 37 bills during the last day of regular session. His actions were disappointing to many; getting a bill through the legislative process takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and it's disappointing the governor would leave the fate of those widely supported measures in limbo. You can read about those 27 bills in this article.
Operating and capital budgets
The 2016 supplemental operating budget as passed by the Legislature is a true supplemental budget that makes only small adjustments to the two-year spending plan passed last year, and sets aside emergency spending for last summer's devastating wildfires. All of this and more was accomplished without tax increases, we avoided tapping into the rainy day fund for ongoing expenses, and left the four-year balanced budget requirement intact.This is what responsible budgeting looks like. Here are some of the highlights:
- A $191 million increase in spending – only about a half a percent – over the current $38.5 billion 2015-17 operating budget.
- About $7 million to recruit and retain K-12 staff and support for beginning teachers.
- About $40 million for mental-health programs and the state's two mental hospitals.
- $190 million for wildfire suppression efforts.
- About $18 million appropriated for state need-grant college funding.
- $29 million for overtime of home health-care providers due to federal rule changes.
In addition to the supplemental operating budget, the Legislature passed a supplemental capital budget. Here are two projects for our communities that made it into the final budget:
- $500,000 for the Algona Community Center
- $52,000 for the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center
Community town halls a success
Thank you to all who were able to participate in our three town halls March 15 and 17. They were all well-attended, and we had healthy, productive conversations about ways to improve our communities and make state government more efficient.
Sen. Mark Miloscia, Rep. Teri Hickel and I always appreciate when community members take the time to meet us. We truly couldn't do our jobs effectively without your input and participation.
Working hard on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities
My bill that would require healthcare providers to distribute evidence-based information to parents expecting a child with Down Syndrome passed both chambers and was signed by the governor. I'm grateful for the work done by the Arc of Washington, advocates and others on this bill. You can read more about the legislation in my press release here.
In addition, the 2016 supplemental operating budget includes funds for increased community respite. During the budget's first debate on the House floor back in February, the House unanimously approved my amendment to add more funds to community-based respite beds. You can watch my speech here. On average, residential habilitation centers (RHCs) can cost as much as twice more than community-based respite. It is critical we fund respite in communities, so individuals don't have to travel long distances to access beds and services.
Keeping in touch
Even though session has adjourned, I am your legislator year round. I encourage you to continue contacting me with your ideas and questions. Sen. Miloscia, Rep. Hickel and I have recently opened our joint legislative office in Federal Way (33305 1st Way S., Suite B-104) and our legislative assistants stand ready to assist you. To contact me, please call (206) 429-2378 or send an email to Linda.Kochmar@leg.wa.gov.
In addition, I'll also be hosting coffee talks every Friday 11 a.m. to noon starting April 1. These will be held at the Federal Way District office, and are an opportunity for me to meet with constituents directly. You are always welcome to attend!
122F Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7898 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000