House and Senate pass state budget; now on Inslee's desk

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by Associated Press and DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on June 29, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Updated Saturday, Jun 29 at 11:48 AM

After nearly six months, the state has an approved budget.

The Senate passed the budget just before 5 p.m. Friday and the House voted to approve it two hours later. The budget now heads to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature.

Inslee's office said the budget with not be signed Friday evening. They want to review the 480+ page document to ensure nothing needs to be vetoed. Inslee told KING 5 he expects to sign in sometime over the weekend.

The 483-page spending plan was released overnight Friday.  Lawmakers hoped to pass the measure before the end of the Friday so that state workers leaving for the weekend would know their jobs would still be there come Monday. 

"No reason for worry (for state workers)," Inslee told KING 5. "People are going to be at work on Monday, as they should be. House is going to pass the budget this evening, I will sign it this weekend. There's no doubts."

While the deadline for signing the budget is at midnight Sunday, the second special session could last until July 11.

Inslee said he still wants lawmakers to pass the transportation package, which he thought could be done over the weekend as well. It would raise the gas tax 10.5 cents a gallon over the next year to pay for improvements to I-90, expansions of freeways around the Port of Tacoma and put $450 milion towardsa a new bridge between Oregon and Washington.

The bill passed out of the House Thursday. It's not clear if it will get a hearing in the Senate.

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.

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