It has been just over a week since the Legislature passed the operating budget on June 30th. Here at EASC we wanted to take a minute to share our thoughts on the budget and the remaining days of this 3rd special session.
Going into the 2017 legislative session, the idea that legislators would not pass an operating budget deal until they reach the fiscal year deadline on June 30th was commonplace. It was clear with complex issues such as McCleary, the Hirst decision, and a flurry of tax proposals on the table that legislators were going to have a hard time coming to a compromise when it came time to finalize an operating budget.
While it is good news that the state averted a government shutdown by passing a 2017-19 operating budget into law, it is frustrating to those of us running businesses, taking care of our families, and going about our business back home to see the process come to a halt for several months only to reemerge in the final 72 hours before final passage. See the breakdown of the entire operating budget.
On a positive note this budget does reach our state’s duty to fully fund education (at least for the next four to five years) and puts the largest amount of funding for education that our state has seen in decades at roughly $7.3B over four years. We are happy to see other investments in areas such as career and technical education (CTE), a modest investment in tourism marketing, increases to higher education, and bipartisan paid family and medical leave legislation.
Some of the missed opportunities from the Legislature include failure to support our growing life sciences through the R&D tax incentives, no movement on cross-laminated timber legislation, minimal investment to support STEM and career connected learning, decimation of the strategic reserve fund, shifting of funds for Associate Development Organizations (which will likely result in a cut), and the Governor’s veto of the B&O tax reduction for manufacturing which would have benefited the 750 manufacturers (primarily small to mid-level companies) in Snohomish County. All of these missed opportunities are solid investments that would generate much needed economic activity in areas throughout Snohomish County and the state.
One of the most disappointing things to see from the Legislature over the past two weeks was the failure to pass a capital budget. The capital budget is the budget that funds important capital investments throughout our state. This includes money for the construction and repair of public buildings and for other long-term investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers. Estimates show roughly 75,000 jobs tied into this $4B investment in the capital budget that was passed out of the House.
When EASC crafted our 2017 Regional Priorities we advocated for a number of capital investments throughout Snohomish County that would have created jobs and improved the quality of place throughout Snohomish County. After a marathon session on June 30th the House came together to pass capital budget out of the House 92-1. This included projects such as funding for the Edmonds pier renovation, funding for key investments in our higher ed institutions, funding for a new civic center in Lake Stevens, and a host of other projects throughout Snohomish County.
Unfortunately the Senate decided to not take action on the capital budget because they had yet to come to a compromise on the Hirst decision. While Hirst is an issue that the Legislature needs to resolve, EASC does not believe tying these two together is the right move.
The question we face now is, do legislators have enough left in the tank to come back to pass a capital budget during the next two weeks? During the next two weeks please contact your legislators and let them know that you would like to see a capital budget passed before they adjourn Sine Die for a third time.