February 19, 2018
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Senate Democratic Caucus unveils its supplemental budget proposal; House to release its plan tomorrow

Senate Democrats released its supplemental budget proposal today. The plan increased Near General Fund-State expenditures by $1.105 billion over the 2017-19 budget enacted last July, bringing total spending to a little more than $44.8 billion. The Washington Research Council’s blog explains the plan.

While it does not rely on passage of new taxes, it does spend $972 million from the state’s reserves to pay for teacher salaries as part of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. That move would leave just $922 million in the account at the end of the two-year budget in 2019, or less than 1 percent of the nearly $45 billion budget.

“This budget would get us out of contempt,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island and chief Senate Democratic budget writer.

The plan also calls for tapping $400 million from Budget Stabilization Account, which would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers to access.

When asked how the Senate landed on $400 million and that level of property tax relief, Rolfes said it reflects the amount of extraordinary revenue growth that was pushed into Budget Stabilization Account. The funds would be used to buy down state property tax rates from $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.39.

Rolfes said it’s the “revenue windfall” from King County real estate sales that has given the state the ability to lower property taxes.

The budget also puts additional dollars toward mental health care at state hospitals to comply with the Trueblood court decision and makes investments in community treatment centers and on opioid treatment.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia and lead Republican budget negotiator, said the budget proposal leaves the door open for bipartisan engagement.

“Early indicators show that the Senate budget chair is interested in working across the aisle toward an end result,” Braun said. “While we may have differences of opinion on a range of issues, this plan demonstrates a serious commitment toward responsible budgeting. I remain committed to working with the chair to help where I can and advocate for areas that need improvement.”

The Seattle Times offers a first look at the Senate’s budget. The House will release its supplemental budget tomorrow.

For more information on the state budget and tax proposals, contact AWB Government Affairs Director Clay Hill.

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B&O Tax Relief for Manufacturers
Support All Manufacturers

AWB tells House committee, 'It's time to let all manufacturers win'

By Jason Hagey, AWB

AWB President Kris Johnson called on lawmakers to lower the business and occupation (B&O) tax rate for all Washington manufacturers, not just those in some parts of the state, during a hearing Friday before the House Finance Committee.

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"It's time to let all manufacturers win," Johnson said, echoing language that Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Ballard, used during a floor speech last week on a separate measure aimed at boosting Washington's boat manufacturers. "We're going to let our fishing fleet win," Tarleton declared before the House voted 97-1 in favor of her bill.
Read the full blog and watch the video at Olympia Business Watch
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Avista sale is good for customers, community

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Six months ago, Avista and Hydro One announced plans to combine and form one of North America's largest regulated utilities. Since that time, as we've moved toward closing, our confidence has only grown in the benefits of this merger for all of our stakeholders, from our customers and employees to our shareholders and the communities we serve.

Given the central role that Avista plays in its service territories, both as an energy provider and a member of the community, we understand why customers and community members want assurances that they will continue to receive safe, reliable and high-quality energy at a fair price and that Avista will continue to be an active corporate citizen.

The short answer is that the proposed transaction is designed to help preserve -- and even enhance -- Avista's commitments to its customers and its communities. In a changing industry landscape, joining forces with Hydro One will help safeguard Avista's proud legacy and way of doing business...

Read the full op-ed in The Spokesman-Review
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