OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington lawmakers hurried Friday to vote on a new state budget totaling $33.6 billion, just hours after making it available to the public.
The 483-page spending plan was released overnight Friday, and lawmakers hope to pass the measure before the end of the day, so that state workers leaving for the weekend will know that their jobs will still be there on Monday morning.
Governor Inslee hopes to have the approved budget to his office by 5 p.m. today to ensure the government won't shutdown Monday.
Inslee won't sign it immediately. His staff will review the budget and plans to sign it over the weekend.
The governor's spokesperson said staffers usually take two and a half weeks to review budgets before signings.
Inslee still hopes the Senate will approve a bill raising the state's gas tax 10.5 cents over the next year.
While the deadline for signing the budget is at midnight Sunday, the second special session could last until July 11.
Some budget points of note:
- $15 billion will go to public schools
- $3 billion will go to higher education
- $12 billion will go to the Department of Social and Health Services along with other social services
- $8.8 billion is slated for transportation
Budget negotiators reached a final deal on the spending plan Thursday after grappling over the details for weeks. Both Republicans and Democrats highlighted how the measure would add $1 billion to the state's education system while providing enough money to universities that tuition would remain at current levels.
The presidents at the University of Washington and Washington State University both released statements stating that the budget represented a step forward.
"With a new state budget completed and approved for the coming biennium, the Washington State Legislature has turned an important corner toward re-investing in higher education; I thank them and congratulate them for that," said WSU President Elson Floyd.
"For the first time in over two decades, state reinvestment in this budget agreement will allow the UW to hold resident undergraduate tuition rates at their current levels without compromising the extraordinary quality of students' educations," UW President Michael K. Young said.
However, the budget plan includes hundreds of other spending and policy proposals. Here's a sampling of some of the more unique parts of the budget bill, as identified by The Associated Press:
The Geoduck Harvest Safety Committee is created to submit recommendations that may establish a safety program for divers seeking the mollusks native to the Pacific Northwest. Total cost: $265,000.
- New entities: The University of Washington will receive $7 million to create a Clean Energy Institute and a Center on Ocean Acidification in order to conduct research on their namesake issues. Such environmental matters have been a focus of Gov. Jay Inslee.
- $50,000 is provided to conduct a cost and impact study of Covington Town Center. That's the home city of House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan.
- Wolf conflict: The Legislature gives $600,000 to a Washington State University program so that it can conduct public outreach on non-lethal ways of limiting conflict between livestock and wild carnivores.
- The governor's office would get a new director of military affairs, at a total cost of $300,000. The person would help the governor's office coordinate with state agencies and local communities on military issues. The state already has an adjutant general of the Military Department that oversees the National Guard and emergency response matters.
- State employees who use state health insurance will be charged $25 a month if they smoke. They will be charged an additional $50 a month if the state worker's spouse is on the government plan when another employer plan is available to them.
- Noxious weeds: $500,000 is allocated to handle weed management and work on the eradication of noxious weeds.
- Lawmakers spend $2 million to purchase scientific equipment for Washington State University biomedical and health sciences building in Spokane.
Full statement from Michael K. Young, president of the University of Washington:
"The proposed state operating budget agreement represents a significant step forward, not only for University of Washington students, faculty, staff and their families - but also for the state of Washington.
"For the first time in over two decades, state reinvestment in this budget agreement will allow the UW to hold resident undergraduate tuition rates at their current levels without compromising the extraordinary quality of students' educations. In addition, new investments in engineering and computer science will expand access to critical programs for qualified students, creating an expanded talent pipeline for the 25,000 high demand job opportunities currently available in our state.
"Budget negotiators are to be commended for their vision in making these essential investments in Washington's economy and future leaders. Furthermore, we are grateful for the strong commitment and unyielding efforts of our incredible advocates, including the steadfast UW community, engaged alumni, dedicated partners in the business community, and broad-based newspaper editorial support. I am optimistic the investments in this budget are a sign of renewed focus and investment in higher education in Washington state."
Statement from Washington State University Office of the President:
"With a new state budget completed and approved for the coming biennium, the Washington State Legislature has turned an important corner toward re-investing in higher education; I thank them and congratulate them for that.
"There are many positive aspects to the higher education budget for the next two years. By far, the most encouraging part is the recognition that we cannot continue to fund higher education on the backs of our students. Moving into the biennium with absolutely no increase in student tuition - and just as importantly, replacing the revenue an increase would have generated with state dollars - marks a renewed commitment to keeping higher education affordable and accessible. It provides welcome relief to students and their families.
"Another benefit of the new budget is complete funding for maintaining current operations. That investment provides a stability that is critical to solidifying and improving the quality of our programs throughout the state. It also bolsters the confidence of hard-working faculty and staff.
"The 2013-15 budget also includes new support for the development of medical education programs at Washington State University Spokane and for expansion of WSU programming at Everett. That enhances our commitment and ability to fulfill our unique land-grant missions in those areas.
"Additionally, the budget provides $5.7 million to bolster the university's efforts to supply our economy with high value degrees in engineering and computer science. That is vital if we are to meet the growing need of business and industry.
"Overall, this budget constitutes a vote of confidence from the legislature in higher education and the role it plays in creating a vibrant economy for our state. It gives WSU the opportunity to be of even more service to Washington and its residents."