Dear friends and neighbors,
We are officially in the last month of the 2023 session! This means we have about three weeks to finish our business in Olympia. As we conclude week 12, I’m eager to share more details on our operating budget proposal, progress of some of my bills and what’s still to come.
Investing in your priorities
On Wednesday, we passed the Senate operating budget proposal off the floor! Many hours and conversations went into shaping our proposal, and I’m very proud of the end result.
It takes a holistic approach and makes targeted investments to address the root causes of the issues – like the housing, behavioral health and climate crises — facing our state, so we can give our neighbors the resources and support they need to lead healthy, productive lives
Some of the highlights include:
BUILDING HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
- $23 million for behavioral crisis, outreach and diversion
- $84 million to increase behavioral health provider rates
- $27 million to help stabilize the health care workforce so that Medicaid patients have adequate access to care
- $15 million for reproductive health and abortion access
SUCCESS FOR EVERY CHILD
- $59 million to expand food access in schools
- $375 million to increase support for special education students
- $525 million for educator salaries and health care costs
- $215 million to bolster the childcare workforce
A HOME FOR EVERYONE
- $85 million for emergency housing and rental assistance
- $15 million for the housing and essential needs program
- $32 million for local government grants to support affordable housing
- $8 million for children and youth experiencing homelessness
SAFETY FOR ALL
- $7 million to help open new regional law enforcement training centers
- $2.3 million for a new organized retail theft task force in the Attorney General’s Office
- $5.5 million to support work release programs
- $3 million to provide law enforcement with modern vehicle pursuit management technology
HEALTHY PLANET, STRONG ECONOMY
- $145 million to provide utility assistance for low-income families, reduce the carbon footprint of state-own facilities, and expand access to energy audits
- $126 million to help transition heavy duty trucks to clean energy, increase air quality monitoring, implement methane capture and support workers affected by climate change
- $96 million for large-scale solar projects, including permitting and siting efforts
- $74 million for projects that help overburdened communities and tribal communities
I’m happy to share my first bill of the session was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jay Inslee!
- SB 5275 — expanding access to benefits provided by the School Employees’ Benefits Board. This will allow tribal compact schools, employee organizations representing school employees, and school board directors the option of providing health care through the School Employees’ Benefits Board, ensuring our educators have access to this critical program.
Our other eight bills are still under consideration in the House, including:
- SB 5236 — concerning hospital staffing standards. It requires hospitals to submit staffing plans to the state Department of Health. The expected staff-to-patient staffing standards would be developed by a hospital’s designated nurse staffing committee, composed of 50% nursing staff and 50% hospital administration. If a hospital is less than 80% compliant with its committee’s approved plan, DOH and state Department of Labor & Industries can investigate and require a corrective action plan, along with possible penalties. It also helps ensure existing break and overtime laws for health care workers — passed in 2019 — are being followed, so they receive legally required meal and rest breaks (you can learn more here).
- SB 5696 — concerning eligibility for participation in the Public Employees’ Benefits Board for retired or disabled employees of counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions. Our communities saw what happened when the Snohomish Health District merger cut off insurance for retirees. This bill would fix that and allow retirees continue participating in PEBB insurance plans (you can learn more here).
- SB 5536 — concerning controlled substances, counterfeit substances, and legend drug possession and treatment. This legislation aims to increase access to substance use treatment for people found in possession of drugs, emphasizing care over criminalization (you can learn more here).
- SB 5286 — modifying the premium provisions of the Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Paid Family and Medical Leave has been a lifeline for many Washington families since its passage. This bill ensures the program will be fully funded and is line with the unanimous recommendations of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force.
We will continue to keep you updated on our progress in the remaining weeks!
A look ahead
Both the House and Senate have presented their three budget proposals — transportation, capital and operating — and passed most out of their respective chamber. This means we will soon start negotiating our final budget before the Legislature adjourns April 23. Gov. Jay Inslee will then review the budget, decide on any vetoes and sign it into law. The new budgets take effect on July 1 and will guide the state’s spending through 2025.
Capital gains ruling
With the capital gains excise tax, we will be able to better invest in our children, in our schools, in our teachers, in our families. We will invest in opportunities for our neighbors, making sure every person in every community has the supports and systems they need to thrive.
This is a key first step toward a more fair and equitable tax system — one that asks the wealthy few, about 7,000 people, to be part of investing in our state’s thriving future by paying what they truly owe in taxes; one that fosters, not stifles, a flourishing economy and the health and success of all Washingtonians.
Stay in touch
Our office continues to be as available to you as ever. Send me an email at June.Robinson@leg.wa.gov or give me a call at 360-786-7674.
My work in Olympia is always informed by the voices of my neighbors, and I’m eager to hear yours.