Senate approves its budget proposals

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March 3, 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

With the legislative session approaching its final day on March 12, most committee work has concluded and most of the bills, other than those related to the budget, have been approved. The three budget bills are also making their way through the process. As you may know, Washington state budgets on a two-year basis and approves three budgets (operating, capital, and transportation). The current state budgets cover the 2019-2021 biennium. All three budgets usually receive adjustments in the middle of their budget cycle, and the Legislature is taking action to make those modifications this session.

The state budgets are separate bills that need approval by the full Legislature before being delivered to the governor, similar to any other legislative proposal. Usually, the House and the Senate each propose and approve their own versions of the three budgets and advance those proposals to the other chamber for consideration. The two chambers then appoint their respective budget negotiators to discuss the differences between the budgets and come together on a final document for legislative approval. Below is an update on the status of the three Senate budget proposals.

Capitol with colors

The Capitol Building in the afternoon sun during a break from the recent rains.

Operating budget ($53.7 billion)

The operating budget funds the day-to-day operations of Washington state, including early learning, K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, criminal justice, natural resources, and other areas. The Senate-proposed operating budget, approved by a bipartisan vote of 33 to 16, benefitted this year from increased revenues that were much greater than projected due to our strong state economy. For the first time in many years, the Senate-passed budget did not rely on any utilization of the state’s Budget Stabilization Account, also known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”  It also did not include fund sweeps, budget gimmicks, or additional taxes. While it is not the budget I would have developed, as it could have included tax relief and a larger total reserve, it is a positive budget in many ways.

The Senate-approved budget increases special education funding and provides more assistance to rural school districts that approve local levies. Plan 1 public service retirees will receive a much-needed cost of living adjustment under the Senate budget. Rural health clinics will receive reconciliation assistance, mental health resources will be increased, and nursing homes will receive additional support. The budget also takes greater steps to facilitate firefighting, improve forest health, and enhance our state parks and natural resources. Additionally, the Senate budget sets aside money in key accounts, adopts State Actuary recommendations to make budgeting in future years more manageable, and prepays for future required expenditures. For more information about the Senate-approved operating budget, please view Senate Bill 6168 or this operating budget summary.

Capital budget ($5 billion)

The state capital budget funds the construction and maintenance of state buildings, public schools, higher education facilities, public lands, parks, and other assets. Over the years, several 12th District projects have been funded thanks to the capital budget. To review my most recent email newsletter about the capital budget, click here. The Senate-proposed capital budget was approved unanimously by a vote of 49 to 0.  While the Senate proposal is not substantially different than the current capital budget, it does make a number of updates for school facility improvements, higher education building additions, and land conservation activities. For the 12th District, the more notable additions include funding for the Parkside behavioral health facility in East Wenatchee and to the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center for its upcoming community space improvements.

In recent years, the 12th District team has been able to generate big wins for our region through the capital budget, including the replacement of key infrastructure following tragic wildfires, the expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities that improve our economy and quality of life, and enhancements to key community response systems. Our legislative team has been able to leverage the capital budget in the past several months and years to successfully fund many of our regional priorities, including the Wells Hall replacement for Wenatchee Valley College, Chelan County Emergency Operations Center, Twisp Civic Building, Winthrop Library, Wenatchi Landing sewer extension, Saddle Rock soil remediation, and a variety of recreation and park facility improvements. For more information about the Senate-approved capital budget, please view Senate Bill 6248 or this capital budget summary.

Transportation budget ($10.5 billion)

The state transportation budget funds the construction and maintenance of state transportation system, including the maintenance and preservation of roads, bridges, and ferries. This budget also funds state agencies and commissions that serve our transportation system, including the Washington State Patrol, Department of Licensing, Department of Transportation, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, County Road Administration Board, Transportation Improvement Board, Transportation Commission, and Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board. The budget also funds numerous previously-approved road projects based on their construction schedules. The Senate transportation budget was approved by a vote of 49 to 0.

As a result of the passage of Initiative 976 related to reducing vehicle registration fees, the transportation budget is anticipating a loss of approximately 7 percent of its revenue. The Senate transportation budget developers have made numerous one-time adjustments and deferrals within the budget proposal to accommodate for this reduced revenue, most of which impact the state’s multi-modal account related to transit projects. While the final determination about the constitutionality of Initiative 976 has not yet been made by the State Supreme Court, it appears that House and Senate lawmakers will be implementing a budget that assumes the initiative will be upheld in court. For more information about the Senate-approved transportation budget, please view Senate Bill 6497 and this transportation budget summary.

Apple Day

During the recent “Washington Apple Day,” industry officials Jennifer Witherbee (left) of the Washington Apple Education Foundation and Toni Lynn Adams (right) of the Washington Apple Commission met with our 12th District legislative team.

Listen to my recent local radio interviews 

Each week during the legislative session, I call our local radio stations to participate in live interviews about the latest happenings in the legislative session. If you'd like to hear my most recent interviews, clock on these links for KPQ, KOHO and KOZI. Also, you can listen to my interview on the Washington Ag Network about my Senate Bill 6032. 

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 12th District state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000