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House Democrats release supplemental operating budget

The House Democratic Caucus released their supplemental operating budget Monday, prioritizing homelessness and housing affordability, health care accessibility and childcare.

The budget doesn’t call for any new taxes, according to House Democratic leadership, and invests in services that legislators said would have an impact on young families throughout the state. 

“This budget is a reflection of not just our caucus priorities or our chamber’s priorities, or even the legislature’s priorities, these are the issues that came to us organically through our constituents,” said Rep. Timm Orsmby (D-3rd District), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’ve done good work in our underlying budget and this builds upon it in those emergent areas.”

Approximately $235 million in the supplemental budget is allocated this biennium to housing and homelessness, which includes $100 million to the Housing Trust Fund to pay for permanent housing programs, and the maintenance of affordable rental stock and shelters. About $5 million will go to homelessness grants to relieve homelessness in communities state-wide. A new fund will get $75 million to pay for shelter facilities and services for five years. 

Early learning and childcare is also a priority, getting an allocation of $56 million to help pay for rate increases to maintain childcare centers. Approximately $7 million will pay for scholarships for those in teacher training who will go into early learning jobs, and K-12 will get $51 million to pay for counselors in high-poverty schools, designated as schools where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. Student transportation will get $68 million, while $17 million will go to para-educator training. 

Behavioral health will get a large chunk of money, too, with House Democratic leaders raising Medicaid primary care rates to $14.5 million, while also adding $3 million to increase Medicaid rates for behavioral health providers, Rep. June Robinson (D-38th District) said. 

“We’re providing $14.5 million for foundational public health services so that our local and state public health offices can respond to all the needs of our communities,” Robinson said. 

County behavioral health administrative services organizations will get $6 million to be used for non-Medicaid services those organizations provide, while $38 million will go towards behavioral health hospital services. 

“I think every member has heard from many constituents about the need to increase Medicaid reimbursement for our nursing homes,” Robinson said, citing the crisis of nursing homes closing state-wide. “So we’re adding $16.8 million for nursing home rates that will provide them both inflation adjustment and an annual re-base of their rates going forward.”

Other areas included the Department of Corrections, with money going towards adequate staffing in corrections facilities. Additionally, the budget proposal restores funds to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which aims to help families struggling to make ends meet. The Department of Fish & Wildlife budget will have an allocation of $15 million that will go toward restoring wildlife habitat and recreation services, while $30 million will go toward fire suppression and wildlife and forest health programs. 

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