On Thursday, the state Senate approved its version of a nearly $60 billion operating budget for the next two years. Crafted by majority Democrats, Senate Bill 5092 was passed along party lines after numerous amendments offered by Senate Republicans failed to be passed, including efforts to curb emergency executive powers and broader changes to the Democrats’ proposed massive tax and spending hikes.
The Democratic budget would increase state spending by $7 billion from the previous biennial budget and would rely on a new type of state income tax, carbon taxes and a “cap-and-trade” scheme. Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, offered an amendment that would have boosted funding rates for two central Washington hospitals. Although Warnick’s proposal is projected to save the state more than $47 million, the majority did not accept the amendment.
“I’m deeply disappointed that at a time when the state has plenty of money, we could not provide this needed investment in rural health care,” Warnick said. “We saw how vulnerable rural parts of our state were at the height of COVID and the impact it had on diverse populations they serve. This investment is needed. I’ll continue to fight for a state budget that uses our resources wisely.”
Senate Republicans offered a floor striking amendment to the proposed budget that represents a stark alternative for the state’s spending priorities. Highlights from the Republican proposal include:
- Preserving the state’s rainy-day fund;
- Property tax relief and reductions in manufacturing taxes;
- Fully funding the Working Families Tax Credit; and
- Providing $1 billion in unemployment assistance.
The proposal supported by Warnick includes no cuts to state services and no tax increases.
“Washington has been fortunate enough to weather the economic effects of COVID-related shutdowns,” said Warnick. “With billions in federal funds coming and strong revenue collections, we can make prudent investments for the people without taxes. Not adopting our proposal is a real missed opportunity to take a better path for Washington.”
Budget writers from the Senate and House of Representatives will soon begin negotiations to reach agreement on a final operating budget plan by the scheduled end of the 105-day session on April 25.