Washington state taking aggressive steps to respond to COVID-19 virus

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March 17, 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature completed its 60-day session in Olympia on schedule on March 12. This year’s session was a busy time for me, as I continued in my elected leadership position as assistant floor leader for our caucus. I also served again as the Senate Education Committee’s ranking member, which is the top-ranking Republican member of the committee. In this role, I worked closely with the committee chair on policy issues and recently on communications about school closures resulting from the COVID-19 virus. As the Legislature approached its final day, with the state reeling from uncertainties about COVID-19, the committee chair and I found ourselves in the governor’s office discussing the upcoming announcement on school closures in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, expanded statewide the following day. In a speedy effort to wrap up legislative work and disperse the large gathering of lawmakers, staff, and advocates at the Capitol, the session adjourned later that evening.

State budgets and COVID-19 emergency response funding approved on March 12

The Legislature approved all three budgets for the remainder of the 2019-21 biennium and a COVID-19 response bill. The operating budget ($53.5 billion), capital budget ($5 billion), transportation budget ($10.5 billion), and the COVID-19 response bill ($200 million) were finalized on the final day of session after much negotiation. I voted for the transportation budget, capital budget, and COVID-19 emergency authorization, but I voted against the final operating budget. I could not support the broad scope of spending in the operating budget, especially during a time when the state is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 virus. There are many uncertainties with this crisis, and it will have significant impacts on our economy and the revenues our state is projected to receive.

Capitol dome (002)

The Legislature has approved all three state budgets and a COVID-19 response bill.

Impacts to statewide schools, dine-in restaurants

The governor recently issued a notice for school closures statewide, until at least April 24. This step will help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus while preserving important state resources, minimizing adverse health impacts, and hopefully saving lives. The challenges associated with school closures, however, include less accessible public facilities, limited serving of school meals, impacts on child care for working families, and reduced student learning time. Restaurant restrictions, closures, bar closures, and limitations on group gatherings will certainly impact the state economy, as will a lessened interest – at the moment anyway – to shop and travel. Further, our state’s agricultural producers will likely be impacted with reduced shipments to international markets. For a state dependent on its sales and business tax revenues – and one that relies on exports overseas – the effects of this virus could have profound impacts on our state economy.

Bipartisan effort to fund COVID-19 response despite budget differences

Fortunately, the unanimous authorization of a $200 million COVID-19 response bill is a good sign of bipartisan cooperation toward meeting the state’s current and upcoming challenges. The final operating budget simply spends too much for the remainder of the 2019-2021 biennium, so I could not support it. This is especially true given the rapidly changing COVID-19 crisis, but the emergency response funding is appropriate. Despite the budget’s nearly $3 billion in projected reserves, which includes a robust “rainy day” fund, our healthy state economy will now be tested by this fast-moving virus. My hope is that our state and its people will soon overcome what, at best, will be a short-term situation.

More information about COVID-19

Hear my final week of in-session radio interviews

Each week during the 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, click on these links for KOHO and KOZI.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator. I realize this is a difficult time for 12th District businesses, schools, and families. Please contact my office if you need additional information.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District
E-mail: brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov 

Website: senatorbradhawkins.org

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