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Notable “asks” among state agency decision packages

The Office of Financial Management has made available most of the “Decision Packages” submitted to Governor Inslee for review.  You can dig through them here.

These packages are the set of “asks” made by state agencies to the governor’s office.  Some fall within the budget scope allotted by OFM.  Some, when taken together, exceed the total amount of funding that the agency was otherwise authorized to budget.  They come listed in priority order for the governor’s review.  His budget, which includes the final decisions on these “asks” will come out in December.

These asks represent a fundamentally important part of the budgeting process, and one that most observers – even experienced policy advocates – can sometimes miss.

Here’s why.

During the legislative session, there will be a lot of effort put into the appropriations process.  Advocates and legislators will all be tussling over the governor’s proposed budget, and the legislative re-vamp of that which occurs annually.

During that process, state agency leaders are only authorized to ask for and to speak in support of those funding requests which have been delivered through the governor’s office.  In other words, during the session, agency leaders are representing the governor’s December budget request, not theirs per se.

So, the only time there is the political room for a state agency leader to go on the record and tell the world what they really think spending should look like is during this “Decision Package” process.  It’s now, in September and October, where we see with clarity what the state bureaucracy believes it needs to do its job optimally.

Now, sure, this is in the absence of revenue decisions that the legislature should make, and yes, these asks are not always realistic.  Sometimes they are political statements rather than pure budgeting exercises.

And, yes, if you have a good relationship with an agency leader, they might tell you what they really think in an informal way.

That said, this window of time is the only time agency leaders make a formal statement of budgeting interests that will be, once the governor makes his budget decisions known, at some conflict with their boss, Gov. Inslee.

So, it’s worth a review.

The Health Care Authority lists 42 total packages.  The Department of Transportation lists 68.  The Dept. of Children, Youth and Families has 59 asks.

Here are a few that stood out in our review.  These aren’t the most important things you’ll find in the state’s budget.  But, we thought these might pique your curiosity.


Health Care Authority:

  • $57m in new funds to offset savings expected from the Healthier Washington initiative that are not anticipated to be met
  • $175k to implement Initiative 1639, Gun Violence Prevention. The funds represent costs associated with the performance and administration of enhanced background checks for sales or delivery of semiautomatic assault rifles throughout Washington State.
  • $24m to move behavioral health data into the clinical data repository, which currently only includes physical health data


Dept. of Transportation:

  • $972k for a new website, of which 881k is for a contractor
  • $1.45m for Washington State Ferries “Familiarization” for employees. This was included as part of the labor contract, but not something that WSF put in its base budget.  “The department currently does not have capacity to absorb the cost of familiarization without affecting the level of service for customers.”
  • $1.782m for maintenance of the I-405 tolling facilities. “Although relatively new, this system addition requires operating costs and maintenance, and those maintenance requirements are expanding as it starts to age.”


Dept. of Children, Youth and Families

  • $2.28m: “DCYF does not have adequate resources to sufficiently prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in its juvenile justice facilities or to manage compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).”
  • $28.3m to modernize the child welfare information system.
  • $21.9m for Attorney General costs to cover the legal case load needs of the agency to support kids and families “adequate to support the legal needs of the DCYF to protect children through the establishment of dependency cases, and to achieve safe and timely permanency through either reunification, adoption, or guardianship.”

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