A lasting impression of the 2015 Legislature will be the dominance of Senate Republicans. And it’s for all the reasons Senate Republicans are smiling. House Democrats couldn’t push across a minimum-wage increase, paid leave or capital gains tax. In one of the bluest and greenest states, they failed to pass any significant climate change bill. In the end, they couldn’t boost the cigarette tax to fund cancer research.
The two-year spending plan hinges on the Legislature delaying Initiative 1351, the measure to lower class sizes that voters approved in November. But in an unexpected development, the state Senate shot down a crucial bill Wednesday morning that would delay the initiative for the next four years. The stalemate over I-1351 also is holding up progress on remaining parts of a 16-year transportation package in the state House, as well as a bonding bill that pays for more than half of the construction budget Inslee signed into law Tuesday.
With about 20 minutes before parts of the government would have shut down, Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday night signed the state’s 2015-17 operating budget. But even as lawmakers applauded the accomplishment, they became locked in a stalemate that threatened progress on a handful of other bills. House members were sent home Wednesday morning at about 3:30 a.m. without finishing votes on the transportation package. After failing to gain the two-thirds majority vote needed to delay implementation of the class size Initiative 1351, the Senate adjourned until Friday. Legislators on Tuesday night additionally passed a capital construction budget, which Inslee also signed.
The state Senate passed the $38.2 billion budget Monday evening on a 38-10 vote, and the state House approved the spending plan shortly afterward, 90-8. The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee, who must sign it by the end of the day Tuesday to avoid lapses in state services and temporary layoffs of state workers.
Lawmakers began their third overtime session at noon Sunday as they tried to wrap up work on a state operating budget. A new two-year budget must be passed and signed by the governor before the end of the day Tuesday to avoid a partial government shutdown Wednesday. Sen. Fain said that in the deal reached on the transportation package, the fuel standard restriction would apply through 2023.
On Saturday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican and Democratic legislative leaders met with the press in a united front to say that a deal has been made for a roughly $38 billion biennial budget. That will likely be signed into law on Tuesday, heading off Wednesday’s looming partial shutdown of state government.
Compared to the June 1 House proposal, 2P2SHB 1106 would reduce funds for (among other things) state support of higher education institutions related to the tuition freeze, computer science enrollment, the WSU medical school, an additional COLA for teachers, and ECEAP (early childhood education and assistance program) expansion.