Sen. Jim Honeyford's Olympia Report - End of Session Edition

 15th District Olympia Report

March 31, 2016

Legislative session ends with minor budget adjustments

This year’s regular legislative session ended March 10. Unfortunately, because our work was not going to be finished by the end of that day, the governor called the Legislature into a “special” session, which began immediately. Late on Tuesday night -- 20 days into the special session, which could last no longer than 30 days – I took my final votes for 2016 and we adjourned.

Although being forced into an overtime session was frustrating, the end results were positive. We finished with bipartisan budget updates that required no new taxes and complied with state law by balancing over four years, not just two.

As the chair of the capital budget (the budget that acquires, constructs and maintains state buildings, public schools, public lands, parks and so on) I was determined to produce a "true" supplemental capital budget. In even-numbered years – like this year – our job is not to develop a budget from scratch but to make minor corrections or adjustments to the two-year budgets that were implemented the previous year. To that end, I began this year’s process by establishing budgeting principles. For a project to be considered it had to deal with an emergency issue, address an unanticipated change in a previously passed program, correct a technical error or represent a one-time opportunity that would be forever lost if not taken this year. Sticking to those principles resulted in a disciplined, no-gimmick bipartisan agreement that was a genuine capital-budget update.

Key capital-budget projects:

  • $34.5 million for additional K-3 classrooms
  • $5.5 million for a modular classroom pilot program in five locations including the Toppenish School District
  • $34.8 million for the School Construction Assistance Program
  • Funds to address state disaster response
  • $6 million for more community beds for mental-health treatment
  • $78 million to address shortfall in the pollution cleanup account
  • $4 million for low-interest loans for drought wells to mitigate the next drought 

Spending increases in the operating budget (that pays for day-to-day operations of state government) were restrained, yet they address the greatest needs of Washington residents. In fact, in all the non-recession years, this is the lowest-spending budget of the century.

Operating budget highlights include:

  • Uses $190 million of the rainy-day fund, only for covering the cost of fighting the 2015 wildfires.
  • Funding for public charter schools.
  • Additional funding for state colleges to retain the historic tuition cut of 2015.
  • Significant reforms to the Health Care Authority to provide cost savings and oversight in the future.
  • Western State Hospital improvements to increase quality of care and safety for patients and staff.
  • Increases home visits and oversight for people with developmental disabilities at highest risk for abuse; creates new developmental disability ombudsman.
  • Supports overtime pay for home health care providers, with a limit on totals (the Senate insisted on this to minimize future budget liabilities).


Local brothers serve as Senate pages in Olympia

During the three months that we were in session I sponsored a number of local students who traveled to Olympia to work as student pages. These included brothers Jaymin and Brendon DeRuyter, home-schooled high-school students from Zillah. Students who participate in this program get a remarkable behind-the-scenes look into state government that few citizens ever see.


During the legislative session students ages 14-16 are able to serve as legislative pages. Students spend a week working at the Capitol performing duties like distributing mail, running errands, delivering messages on the floor of the Senate chamber and making new friends. Part of their day is also spent attending Page School, where they learn about the legislative process and the role elected officials play.

If you know a student who would be interested in this unique opportunity during the 2017 legislative session, more information and an application can be found here. As my former pages can tell you, the week in Olympia goes by quickly. If you have questions regarding openings for this program, my office may be able to assist you as well.

In closing...

Overall I'm pleased with the work that was done in Olympia this year. Now that I'm home I look forward to being back in the community, spending time with my family and visiting with neighbors and friends.

I hope you’ll reach out to contact me. Your feedback is how I serve you better as your state Senator. I answer my email personally. You may also call my office at (360) 786-7684 to voice your opinion or make an appointment.

It remains my honor to serve you in the Washington State Senate.


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