We now sit with only 10 days left in Washington’s 2016 Legislative Session. With the fiscal committee cutoff Monday, February 29 and the opposite house of origin cutoff on Friday March 4, there is a critically short amount of time for policy bills to finish their journey to become law this year. While proponents of legislation still being considered are working feverishly to pass their bills, most of the attention in Olympia is now focused on the Supplemental Budget. This year the House introduced their version of the budget first. The House Supplemental Budget increases the 2015-17 general fund spending by $478.4 million. Major items include $99.0 million for recruiting and retaining teachers, a tax increase of $123.8 million and an appropriation of nearly half a billion dollars from the Budget Stabilization Account (also known as the rainy day fund) for the homeless and to help fight forest fires.
Senate Republicans claim that the House budget relies heavily on hypothetical tax increases, which House Democrats refuse to vote on. The Senate, led by Republicans, also opposes withdrawing such a large amount from the “rainy day fund” and favor waiting for next year’s budget debate to address the teacher shortage rather than pursuing a short-term solution during this supplemental budget year. The Senate’s Supplemental Budget would increase general fund spending for 2015-17 by $33.6 million. Priorities include new classroom funding, mental-health and replenishing the Model Toxics Control Act account, and $6.6 million for charter schools out of the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account.