Reviewing the 2021-23 state budgets

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February 1, 2022

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature continues its mostly virtual session in Olympia and will soon be approaching the second month of session. With all three of the state’s two-year budgets approved last April during the 105-day session, the primary focus of the current legislative session is to make adjustments as needed to the existing budgets. Since the Legislature is now considering adjustments to those budgets during the second half of the current session, I thought it would be helpful to review the existing budgets. All three budgets authorize spending throughout the two-year period from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2023. The operating budget ($59.2 billion), transportation budget ($11.8 billion), and capital budget ($6.3 billion) were finalized after much negotiation in April 2021 during the final days of session. I voted for the transportation budget and capital budget last session, but I voted against the final operating budget. I do not yet know whether I will be able to support the budget adjustments when proposed this session.

Capitol Dome in snow

The Capitol Building in Olympia occasionally gets snowfall. This photo was taken behind the state Capitol in between the House and Senate office buildings.

Operating budget ($59.2 billion for 2021-2023)

The operating budget funds the day-to-day operations of the state, including early learning, K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, criminal justice, natural resources, courts, and other areas. For the 2021-2023 biennium, the House and Senate majorities significantly increased the size of the operating budget to a record $59.2 billion. As with any budget or other large-scale legislation, there are always things to like and things not to like. However, I could not support the broad scope of spending in the final budget and voted against it. Despite the COVID pandemic, state revenues were still projected to be positive, with more dollars flowing into the state than what was projected earlier in the pandemic. Unfortunately, the final budget projected to spend all of this revenue in the coming years and also fully exhausts the state’s $2 billion Budget Stabilization Account, also known as our rainy-day fund. As part of this budget, the Legislature also approved a new tax on capital gains income to raise more revenue for expanded programs. I have major concerns about the sustainability of the budget, including what the state will do if future revenues decline. The 2021-23 operating budget of $59.2 billion was approved last April by the House 57 to 40 and in the Senate 27 to 22. I voted “no” in the Senate. For more information about the operating budget, click here.

Updated 10-year operating budget chart

The state operating budget has grown considerably in recent years. The 2013-15 budget authorized $33.9 billion in state spending. The budget approved on April 25 for the 2021-23 biennium is $59.2 billion, which represents an increase of nearly 75 percent over the 10-year period, which is well beyond inflation costs. I could not support the 2021-23 operating budget and have concerns about its sustainability.

2021-23 operating budget chart

The operating budget funds the day-to-day operations of the state, including K-12 education, higher education, human services, natural resources, and other programs. Nearly half of state expenditures are dedicated to K-12 education. Other expenditures include Medicaid, long-term care, and other programs.

Transportation budget ($11.8 billion for 2021-2023)

The transportation budget funds the construction and maintenance of the state transportation system, including the maintenance and preservation of roads, bridges, and ferries. This budget also funds the 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. Due to the lack of driving during the COVID pandemic, much of the gas tax and other revenues that the transportation budget depends upon was significantly less than in past years. Additionally, a Supreme Court case involving fish-blocking transportation culverts has forced the state to invest billions of dollars to fix them. The combined loss in transportation revenues, as well as the increase in fish passage restoration projects, has created a strain on the overall system. This resulted in a lean 2021-23 transportation budget with few new additions. The 2021-23 transportation budget of $11.8 billion was approved by the House 90 to 6 and in the Senate 41 to 8. I voted “yes” in the Senate. For more information about the transportation budget, click here. For this year’s budget adjustments, it is not yet clear what changes will be made. The federal infrastructure bill from last November did include projects in Washington, so those additions – as well as some other adjustments – could be made. Some legislators are still considering a new package of transportation investments, funded by expanded gas taxes and other fees.

West Cashmere Bridge image

As an example of a transportation budget item, I was proud to sponsor state funding toward the new West Cashmere Bridge. For information, click here and here. Multiple roads and bridges in our state are in need of improvements and replacements. We also have much work to do in the transportation budget to adequately fund the maintenance and preservation of our existing system.

Capital budget ($6.3 billion for 2021-2023)

The state capital budget funds the construction and maintenance of state buildings, public school matching grants, higher education facilities, public lands, parks, and other assets. In recent years, the 12th District team has been able to generate big wins for our region through this 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, with the help of Representative Steele, who helps negotiate the capital budget, has been able to successfully secure many of our regional priorities, including the Wells Hall replacement for Wenatchee Valley College, Chelan County Emergency Operations Center, Twisp Civic Building, Winthrop Library, Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, Wenatchi Landing sewer extension, Saddle Rock soil remediation, and a variety of recreation and park facility improvements. The current 2021-23 capital budget is a success for our district as well, most notably including the Nason Ridge Community Forest, Chelan Airport water extension, small-school modernization grants, Wenatchee City Pool renovation, Winthrop Ice Rink support, Leavenworth Ski Hill restrooms, Soap Lake City Hall repairs, North Central Washington Libraries funding, and other facility or infrastructure investments. For a full list of 12th District funding, click here. The 2021-23 capital budget of $6.3 billion was approved by the House 98 to 0 and in the Senate 49 to 0. I voted “yes” in the Senate. For more information about the final capital budget, click here. The budget updates in development now for this year are not expected to substantially change the overall capital budget.

Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center

As another capital budget example, the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center recently received funding for community space improvements. These included media, lighting, seating, sound improvements, and added wheelchair access. Please visit the museum sometime to see and enjoy these renovations.

As the Legislature prepares adjustments to all three state budgets, please know that I will continue to do everything I can to maximize opportunities for North Central Washington.

Listen to my recent local radio interviews 

Throughout the legislative session, I call our local radio stations weekly to participate in live interviews about legislative issues. To hear my most recent interviews, click on these links for KOHO, KPQ, and KOZI. If you have any questions, please contact me anytime.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 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