Investing in Washington’s continuing success

Inslee releases 2019–21 biennial budget

Gov. Jay Inslee released his 2019–21 biennial budget today that makes significant investments in clean energy, behavioral health, orca recovery, education, statewide broadband and other crucial budget investments.

“Washington is the only state that consistently ranks as a top state for business and ranks as the top state for workers. But we know that prosperity is not shared equally and we must make investments to grow our economy, protect the most vulnerable and ensure that everyone has access to opportunity,” Inslee said.
Gov. Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudi Inslee visit Fruit Valley Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington, April 4, 2018 (Office of the Governor photo)

Thursday’s budget announcement capped off a week of bold policy announcements.

Clean energy

Earlier in the week, Inslee unveiled a plan that would launch a dramatic reduction of Washington state’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years. The proposal would accelerate the innovation and efforts underway across the economy to transition to 100 percent clean energy, construct ultra-efficient buildings, establish a clean fuel standard, electrify the state’s transportation system and phase down super-pollutants in certain products. Combined, the policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035.

Gov. Jay Inslee takes questions from the press during his clean energy press conference (Office of the Governor photo).

Behavioral health

The governor also announced a detailed plan for transforming Washington’s behavioral health system based on treatment in community-based facilities. Inslee’s plan turns the state hospitals into Forensic Centers of Excellence for forensic patients, and moves civil commitment patients into the community by supporting and building additional beds at a combination of smaller state-run and private facilities.

These new facilities will provide expanded treatment options to better serve the unique needs of individual patients. He used the Navos facility and programs as an example of the type of facility needed in Washington state.

Orca recovery

Supporting Southern Resident orca recovery efforts is one of Inslee’s top priorities. His operating, capital and transportation budgets for the next biennium include a combined $1.1 billion in investments that will help ensure a thriving and resilient orca population. Besides helping orcas, these investments will have significant benefits for the region’s entire ecosystem and complement efforts to recover salmon, tackle climate change, improve water quality and more.

“We are undertaking a Herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take action at every level of the environment across our entire state,” Inslee said. “We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians.”

Read more about the governor’s orca plan here.

The governor’s budget makes major investments in students from the youngest learners through K -12, higher education and career connected learning.

Early learning

“The most important investment we can make is in our children. We know that the benefits from early learning programs extend throughout a child’s life,” Inslee said. “I am proud that my budget invests in comprehensive early learning services that will ensure that all children receive the support necessary to enter kindergarten prepared and well positioned for success in school and life.”

The governor’s budget includes $173 million to provide universal newborn screening assessments and home visiting services, expand and improve preschool opportunities, create a statewide referral system to connect families with early learning services and build more early learning facilities.

Read more about the governor’s early learning investments here.

Career Connect Washington

On the other end of the education spectrum, Inslee launched the Career Connect Washington initiative last year, a public-private partnership with the five-year goal of connecting 100,000 young people with employer internships, registered apprenticeships and other learning opportunities.

The governor proposes $93 million in new investments for Career Connect Washington to ensure that every student in Washington has meaningful hands-on career experiences and pathways to economic self-sufficiency.

Gov. Jay Inslee meets Career Connect Washington leaders at Kaiser Permanente in Renton, October 25, 2018 (Office of the Governor photo)

K -12 education

Building on the historic bipartisan investments in in K-12 education over the past six years, the 2019–21 budget is the first in which all McCleary funding improvements will be fully funded for the an entire biennium.

“Meeting our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education was one of the greatest budget challenges this state has ever faced, and fixing the problem required an enormous infusion of state funding for schools,” Inslee said. “The 2019- 21 budget will be the first in which all McCleary funding improvements will be fully funded for an entire biennium.”

Inslee is the taking next steps to fund the special education needs of Washington students with new funding of $146 million to support special education efforts across the state. This will help fully fund a program that reimburses districts for extraordinary expenditures on services to students with the highest-cost special education needs.

And to support all student needs, the budget investment of $155 million for more school counselors, nurses and social workers to support student needs.

Washington has long been a leader in providing financial aid for higher education students. We build on that success by fully funding the Washington College Promise (formerly State Need Grant), at $103 million, which by 2023 will provide financial aid for all students who qualify for it.

The governor is also proposing that local communities have the ability to ask voters to approve additional resources for their schools. Despite the significant increase in funding from the state, the complicated new funding structure affected districts’ abilities to collect local levies and, in some cases, meant they couldn’t fund the added teachers, programs or services they’d planned.

“As long as the state continues to fulfill its obligation to fully fund basic education, I think it’s reasonable to restore the local levy authority that allows voters to determine whether they want to provide funding for more programs,” Inslee said.

The governor’s budget also includes investments for teachers and other school employees. Over the past two years, the Legislature created a new state program that consolidates and funds health care and other insurance benefits for school employees across the state. Prior to the creation of the School Employees Benefits Board, or SEBB, school employee health insurance was administered by local school districts. Inslee’s biennial budget includes increasing the state contribution to school employee benefits to $900 million.

“The governor’s budget makes vital investments to foster a more equitable educational system for all of our students,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“I’m thrilled the governor funds special education services consistent with our vision for more inclusive classrooms. He also makes substantial investments in additional support staff like school counselors and social workers,” Reykdal said. “In addition, he recognized the critical need to return some local levy capacity for those school districts whose communities want to provide additional services to their students. Finally, rural Washington will get much needed preservation funding for aging school facilities. I’m proud to support this budget!”

Statewide broadband

This summer, the governor took a statewide tour to talk about expanding broadband internet access, especially in rural areas of the state.

Based on what he heard, Inslee proposes setting up a new Statewide Broadband Office to serve as the central planning and coordinating body for public and private efforts to deploy broadband. The governor’s budget also includes funding for a competitive grant and loan program to extend broadband services to unserved and underserved people and to remote pockets of the state.

“I had the opportunity to hear from students, businesses and health care providers about what statewide broadband access would mean for them,” Inslee said. “They told me that this is not only an economic development issue, but one that is crucial to students learning and is beneficial in delivery of health services including tele-medicine.”

Homelessness and opioids

Although the economic boom here has created enormous opportunity for many Washingtonians, it has also exacerbated other challenges as our population has rapidly grown and some parts of the state struggle with homelessness.

Included in the governor’s budget are investments for more affordable housing and preserving of affordable units, as well as in providing housing assistance.

To help those struggling with opioid use disorder in every corner of Washington, the budget includes $19.3 million for opioid treatment and recovery and $10.7 million for prevention.

Revenue

To pay for the investments laid out his budget, the governor is proposing to use a portion of the state’s budget reserves, in combination with revenue from one new tax and changes to two current state taxes:

  • A new capital gains tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets. With the tax geared to very large capital gains, only a small fraction of the state’s wealthiest taxpayers would be affected.
  • Increasing the state business and occupation tax on services, such as those provided by accountants, architects, attorneys, consultants and real estate agents.
  • Changing the state’s real estate excise tax from a regressive flat rate to a progressive graduated rate that would lower the tax on sales of lower-value properties and increase it for sales of properties valued at $1 million or more. Additional revenue generated by the change will help fund the removal of fish passage barriers, or culverts, across the state.
“Washington is a great state and it is worth protecting all the things that make it so special,” Inslee said. “There are significant challenges we face to make sure our state continues to be a place of opportunity so we’re asking those who have done exceptionally well to help pay it forward so we can invest in the things that help others have the same chance at success. I look forward to working with the Legislature when it convenes in January.”

Watch Inslee’s budget release on TVW.org

Budget highlights: https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/201921-Budget-and-Policy-Highlights.pdf

Office of Financial Management budget page: https://ofm.wa.gov/budget/state-budgets/gov-inslees-proposed-2019-21-budgets