April 29, 2015
Special Session Begins Today
The 2015 regular legislative session was scheduled to end on Sunday April 26th, but legislators adjourned on Friday, April 24th.
Almost immediately, the Governor called a special session to convene today, Wednesday, April 29th. The primary focus of the session is the passage of the budget.
The major challenge of the 2015-17 operating budget is to resolve the significant differences between the House and Senate budgets around what gets funded, by how much, and where are the resources to be found. This is a biennial problem, but it is complicated this year by the McCleary Decision, a state Supreme Court ruling that mandates the full funding of Basic Education.
Presently, neither the proposed House or Senate budgets eliminate safety net programs, but they do fail to adequately fund critical programs. The funding for many programs that were dramatically reduced during the years of the recession, is not restored. For example, neither the House nor the Senate restores the 15% TANF grant cut, or the funding cut from the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program.
Sufficient revenue is needed to provide for essential services and programs, including safety net programs for people in poverty, mental health services, children's services, home care for elders and people with disabilities, and affordable housing.
The House and Senate budget negotiations are stalled primarily over whether new revenue is needed.
The House budget relies on tax increases. For example, a bill proposed, but not yet passed, would raise parts of the state business-and-occupation tax (B&O) on some professional services and includes a capital-gains tax.
The Senate budget relies on fund transfers, closing some tax loopholes and on projected savings, e.g., in mental health from a federal waiver and a reduction of state employee spousal healthcare coverage.
There are many options for securing adequate revenue. WSCC's position is that there must be sufficient revenue to avoid cuts to social services and to restore the cuts to essential services.
Click here to view previous WSCC advocacy bulletins. Click here to view this bulletin on the WSCC website.
The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic Bishops of Washington State.