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Inslee’s supplemental budget: school funding, mental health services, and an upcoming carbon pricing plan

In a press conference on Thursday, Governor Inslee laid out the details of his proposed 2018 supplemental budget. Funding basic education was a key priority of the budget, with emergency preparedness, mental health services, Orca population protections, responses to the opioid crisis, and career-connected learning opportunities also receiving proposed funding boosts.

Following the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling last month, the budget prioritizes upping funding for public school education beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Inslee’s budget proposes a $950 million investment in education in order to meet the court-mandated timeline for school funding.

“Let’s fund the final step of McCleary this year,” Inslee said. “The Legislature has invested billions of dollars in our public schools over the past five years, including in a bipartisan effort to tackle the heaviest and most complicated part of the plan this past session related to local levies and compensation for educators…our students and their teachers are counting on us to deliver the full funding they need — and we can deliver that full funding now.”

Image courtesy of the Washington Office of Financial Management

Inslee’s supplemental budget also allocates over $100 million to cover higher operating costs of Washington’s mental health system. This includes improving the capacity and quality of available mental health services and adding 90 more staff members to Western State Hospital.

Inslee also announced that unanticipated costs in the 2017-19 budget will be covered in his supplemental budget including $50 million in emergency expenditures such as wild fire costs. Other emergency funds include over half a million dollars devoted to additional earthquake and tsunami preparedness.

Additional proposed funds include $3.1 million to support orca population recovery, $17.5 million for middle schools to begin “high school and beyond plans,” as part of the career-connected learning initiative, and $20 million toward a multipronged effort to fight the opioid epidemic.

Inslee also took time during the news conference to call on the legislature to take action and pass a full capital budget within the first week of the upcoming session.

“One of the disappointing failures of our time here is the legislature’s failure to fulfill a basic, fundamental obligation, which is to have a capitol budget for our state government,” said Inslee. “Projects have been unnecessarily delayed, jobs have been unnecessarily compromised, costs are going up for tax payers for no reason at all because construction costs are increasing over time. This is not acceptable to the people of the state of Washington. They deserve a basic functioning state government and that includes a capital budget.”

According to an overview of the budget, much of the new spending of the supplemental budget will be covered by increases in the state’s revenue collections, and the budget will leave approximately $2.1 billion in reserves at the end of the biennium including $1.4 billion in Washington’s rainy day fund.

During the press conference, Inslee also made note of a proposed “carbon pricing plan” that would help restore money to the state’s reserves for the next biennium, but remained quiet on details and announced more news on this would come in January.

In response to Inslee’s announced budget, Senator John Braun, ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, commented,

“I’m encouraged by a few components of the governor’s budget plan. I’m glad he is finally adhering to the four-year balanced budget law in crafting his budget, and I appreciate that he is embracing the bipartisan work on the K-12 education funding structure enacted last session… My main concern is with aspects of how Governor Inslee balances the budget, specifically with the carbon tax and its impacts on Washington businesses and citizens, and the proposed tapping of the state’s ‘Rainy Day Fund.’ We will see whether there are enough votes in the Legislature to pass these proposals.”

“The governor’s budget proposal is just a starting point. Now it’s up to legislative budget leaders to move forward and develop a prudent and responsible supplemental budget that makes necessary adjustments to the two-year spending plan instead of tacking on expensive wish-list spending items.”

More details on total expenditures and the budget balance sheet can be found here.