April 4, 2016
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At last: Lawmakers pass budget, override vetoes, end 2016 legislative session

This year was supposed to be a relatively simple year of adjusting last year’s big budget deal, but lawmakers still went into overtime before deciding last week on a supplemental budget deal.

In the end, the House and Senate were able to bridge the gap on spending differences, and in the process end the argument — for now — on whether or not to abide by the four-year balanced budget as required by law.

AWB is a strong proponent of the four-year spending outlook requirement. It is one way to foresee how spending today impacts the next two-year state operating budget, ending the "boom to bust" that was so common prior to the legislation.

The four-year balanced budget rule “has brought needed discipline” to the budgeting process, and is important to preserve, AWB President Kris Johnson said after the session ended.

AWB Government Affairs Director Eric Lohnes listed highlights of the middle-ground 2016 supplemental budget:

  • An increase of Near General Fund and Opportunity Pathways spending by a net of $191 million from the 2015-17 enacted spending level of $38.2 billion. This reflects $203 million in maintenance level changes for caseload and other adjustments based on current law requirements offset by approximately $13 million in net policy level decreases.
  • A $190 million appropriation from the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) for wildfire costs in the 2015-17 biennium.
  • Assumption of additional budget driven revenues, including $46 million in the 2015-17 biennium which is based on the Department of Revenue using its existing statutory authority allowing the waiver of penalties for back taxes on royalty income if paid by October 1, 2016. These are the same back taxes addressed in the committee's proposed substitute to SB 6665, concerning TV programming providers. The other provisions of the committee's proposed substitute were not carried forward in this budget.
  • No tax preference/incentive closures.
  • Compliance with the four-year balanced budget act.

Gov. Jay Inslee discussed the budget in a sine die press conference; TVW has video.

Before leaving town, the Legislature also quickly voted to override 27 vetoes Inslee made at the end of the regular session in hopes of convincing lawmakers to end on time.

As soon as the Legislature adjourned, incumbents began ramping up their election campaigns. “Frozen” from fundraising during session, the end of active lawmaking in Olympia starts the beginning of active solicitation for campaign donations. Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network has more.

Watch AWB’s full legislative round-up webinar that took place March 24 here.

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Trade Is the Cornerstone of Washington's Economy

Trans-Pacific Partnership paves way for growth at home

By Michael Senske, CEO, Pearson Packaging Systems

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement eliminates tariffs on every Washington-manufactured product exported to TPP countries. With over 500 manufacturing businesses in the Spokane region alone, employing over 15,000 Washington residents, the TPP would have a significant positive impact on the region.

Benefits to Washington manufacturers and workers not only include substantial tariff reductions but also improved standards for labor, environmental and intellectual property protection in TPP partner countries that will enable us to better compete with them.

As trade rules in the Pacific Rim and around the world are being rewritten, I urge other Spokane businesses and residents to join us in supporting a free-trade-oriented environment in which our economy can thrive and the standard of living for the families that we support continues to rise. Please support the TPP.
Click here to read the full op-ed in The Spokesman-Review
Budget Procrastination

What took so long for the Legislature to reach a budget deal?

By The Seattle Times Editorial Board

The state Legislature deserves to be the butt of a familiar joke: They'd procrastinate, if only they could get around to it.

For the seventh time in three years, lawmakers treated the scheduled end of the legislative session like a yield sign, not a stop sign, and skidded straight into a special session. This time, it was 20 days of overtime, even though the stakes were low. Tuesday's agreement on a one-year supplement to the state's $38.2 billion two-year budget added less than one half of 1 percent.

The deal hewed to a familiar script since Republicans effectively took control of the Senate four years ago. Democrats, who control the House and governor's mansion, opened negotiations high, demanding new revenue. Republicans held the line on new taxes. They delay and delay before settling to the right of center, using budget gimmicks to paper over their differences...

That tough work has been kicked to next year. And it should beg this question for voters: If the hard work wasn't done, what took so long to reach this deal?
Click here to read the full editorial in The Seattle Times
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