UPDATE : The governor’s list of vetoes is linked here.
ORIGINAL POST: Gov. Jay Inslee put pen to paper and signed an operating budget Sunday afternoon that authorizes spending by state government agencies for the next two years. Lawmakers had approved the plan Friday evening just in time to head off a government shutdown on July 1.
“Again we’ve done good things in tough times,’’ Inslee said in a 4:15 p.m. bill-signing session at the Capitol that was attended by a handful of lawmakers and about two-dozen legislative and gubernatorial staffers who clapped when he signed it. The Democrat said the budget deal reached by a Republican Senate and Democratic House still leaves “long-term funding problems” for public schools and he expressed hopes of addressing those “in a more systematic way” in coming years.
Senate Bill 5034 authorizes about $33.54 billion in spending including a new $1 billion investment in K-12 schools aimed at answering a Supreme Court ruling; an end to 3 percent pay cuts for state workers; and an expansion of Medicaid to cover 250,000 to 300,000 new clients.
Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature both saw good elements in the compromise plan, which took lawmakers 153 days spread over two special sessions and one regular session to complete. Passage of a $3.6 billion capital budget Saturday freed lawmakers finally to go home.
A key piece leading to agreement was a telecom tax bill [HB 1971], which Inslee also signed into law Sunday. The compromise bill was passed after a difficult fight over other new tax breaks and new standards for allowing exemptions in the tax code.
The telecom tax bill ends a home-phone sales tax break that mobile and Internet phone service providers were poised to exploit at a cost of $1.1 billion to the state over four years, and it brings in a net $85 million in new state revenue over two years while also putting money into an account that helps small rural phone companies continue services at affordable rates for residents.
Inslee said the telecom tax bill was key in getting the K-12 investment to $1 billion. He also signed a bill extending or granting 16 tax breaks to select business or commercial activities, including honeybee services, financial services and hog fuel used by mills.
Inslee did veto 17 sections of the budget bill, and Office of Financial Management staffers believed the stricken elements did not have a large financial impact. House Speaker Frank Chopp and Republican Sens. Andy Hill, Bruce Dammeier and Joe Fain stood behind Inslee as he signed the budget and veto message papers. We’ll wait to see what objections are raised in coming days over those vetoes.
One vetoed section required audits of the costs from state renewable energy standards, which require utilities to add alternative energy sources to their mix over time. Inslee’s veto message said the audit would have looked only at costs, not benefits, and he said the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup Action will consider the issue was it works to find ways the state can meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gases.
Inslee was scheduled to sign a total of 16 bills. He signed a bill authorizing a premium tax on health insurance polices sold through the state’s soon-to-open Obamacare exchange; a bill imposing a safety net fee on hospitals that will let the state and hospitals receive a net gain in Medicaid funding from the federal government; and a bill advancing long-term water storage along the Yakima River Basin, which is aided by some $130 million in investments through the capital budget.
An overview of the two-year operating budget’s elements is here.