WSAC/WACO Joint Conference Save the Date

The Senate 2017-19 Operating Budget (SSB 5048)

Senate Majority Coalition Caucus released a new two-year budget proposal that aims to fix how the state pays for schools, but also significantly reduces funds elsewhere to make that happen.
The $43-billion spending plan would impose a new statewide property tax of $1.55 per $1000 in assessed value to pay for education, while reducing local school district levies by about $800 million to offset some of the costs to taxpayers. Overall, the proposal adds approximately $1.8 billion to the state’s K-12 school system over the next two years.  Two significant budget reductions are imposed on the Department of Corrections and Department of Social and Health Services. 
Budget documents and details can be found on the Leap website: LEAP budget summary
Budget highlights of particular interest to WACO members:

  • Includes provisions of the WACO and Assessors’ priority bill SB 5188, concerning removal of land from the current use property tax classification due to certain natural disasters.
  • Funds the Coroner statewide management system at $130,000 but sweeps $1.2 million from Death Investigations Account.
  • Continues court system upgrades (Odyssey) at $12 million, plus an additional $4.3 million for expedited data exchange.
  • Funds Legal Financial Obligation (LFO) reimbursement costs but shows a distinct reduction in the second half of the biennium.
  • Funds eight new Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) classes at a county participation rate of 25%.
  • Funds Fish and Wildlife Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) at a much higher rate than previous years.
  • Funds a new tax court created by SB 5866 and eliminates Board of Tax Appeals (BTA).
  • Cuts $14.6 million in truancy reimbursements but claims that other revenue under Section 801 offsets this cut. 
  • Cuts $1.6 million in Thurston County Impact funds to courts and clerks for the additional caseload due to cases against the state being filed in Thurston County.
  • Eliminates local government fiscal note program (LGFN), saving $640,000.
  • Reduces funding to Department of Corrections (DOC) by:
    • Reducing the community supervision caseload by requiring multiple terms of supervision to be served concurrently,
    • Allowing offenders to earn positive time off their supervision sentence based on behavior and compliance with a supervision plan,
    • Making simple possession of a controlled substance an unranked felony, carrying up to a 12 month jail sentence, and
    • Making the First Time Offender Waiver (FTOW) a mandatory alternative to prison time for certain felony convictions. 
These sentencing changes will likely increase county jail costs by moving more offenders from the prison system to local jails.
  • Funding is provided to treat patients identified by DOC as needing Hepatitis C treatment. $49.8 million.
  • Spend $95 million in the next two years to boost staffing at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals. The money also would provide for 48 private-contract community psychiatric beds and half a dozen crisis walk-in centers in Washington.

Priority Bills

Auditors: (SB 5187) the Auditors' cleanup bill is scheduled for executive session March 23.

Clerks: (SB 5327) The Clerks' cleanup bill is scheduled for executive session March 23 and 28.

Coroners: (HB 1794) The Coroners' bill concerning the death investigations account cleared the house and was introduced in the Senate with a referral to the Senate Law & Justice Committee. The provisions of this bill are covered in the Senate budget proposal.

Treasurers: (HB 1283SB 5189) The Treasurers’ anticipated tax bill. The House version is in the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate bill cleared the Senate version is scheduled for executive session March 30.

Our Progress Thus far

Other Bills of Interest

The following bills of interest were discussed by the Legislative Committee, who then voted to take a position on the bills. 

Support: (HB 1209) This bill allows counties more options in depositories by opening up the pool to credit unions. The House version of this bill has passed the the House and is introduced in the Senate.

Support: (HB 1594) This bill concerns training and consultation regarding public disclosure. The bill had a hearing in the the Senate Committee on State Government March 15 at 8 am (link to hearing video).

Support: (HB 1595) This bill concerns the costs associated with public records, allowing governments to collect a modest fee for electronic records gathered. The bill had a hearing in the the Senate Committee on State Government March 15 at 8 am (link to hearing video).

Legislative Reception
WACO and WSAC staff and members mingle with legislators and staff during the February 15 legislative reception at Water Street Cafe.

Legislative Receptions

During session we are partnering with WSAC for four legislative receptions at the Water Street Café in Olympia. Please put these receptions on your calendars and give your local legislators a call to invite them to join us.

The remaining reception is:

  • April 5, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Cafe

Levy Cliff Averted, But Much Work Ahead

(Courtesy of the Yakima Herald)

As the wheels of Washington state’s government keep turning on the school-funding issue, we can be assured that they at least won’t roll us over a levy cliff. But it is worth noting that the Legislature can’t pull up to a stop just yet.

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