Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It required a 60-day regular session and 20 days of special session, but the Legislature finally adjourned late Tuesday night after 13 hours of floor action. When the final gavel struck around 11 p.m., we had passed supplemental operating and capital budgets and also overrode vetoes of 27 bills by Gov. Inslee. The governor had made the unprecedented decision to veto the bills after a budget deal wasn't reached during the regular session. Without the 27 overrides by the Legislature, a lot of good legislation would've been off the table until next session. I'm thankful the two chambers were able to work together and save the bills.
Supplemental operating budget
House and Senate budget negotiators worked tirelessly during the special session to develop a strong supplemental operating budget. The budget makes small adjustments to the $38.5 billion 2015-17 operating budget, makes needed investments and pays for emergencies. Also of note is what the budget doesn't do. It doesn't raise taxes, nor does it raid the state's rainy day fund.
Here are the highlights:
- $191 million increase in spending, or half-a-percent;
- $40 million directed for mental-health programs and the state's two mental hospitals;
- $29 million for overtime of home health-care providers;
- As much as $18 million appropriated for state need-grant college funding;
- $8 million to help backfill costs to keep tuition reduced at state colleges and universities;
- $7 million to recruit and retain K-12 staff and support for beginning teachers;
- $190 million in budget reserves to pay for wildfire suppression last year.
While no budget is perfect, I was happy to cast a 'yes' vote in favor of the supplemental operating budget, which was approved 78-17 in the House and 27-17 in the Senate.
Supplemental capital budget
The supplemental capital budget was supported in even greater bipartisan fashion, being approved 86-9 in the House and 38-5 in the Senate. Some highlights:
- $76 million for K-12 school construction, with $40 million specifically for K-3 class-size reduction and all-day kindergarten;
- $27 million for mental health facilities;
- $2.4 million for emergency funding to local governments for infrastructure damaged due to recent wildfires and for infrastructure to battle wildfires;
One other highlight of the capital budget was the $300,000 my colleagues and I secured for repairs to the USS Turner Joy, a retired U.S. Naval Destroyer ship docked in Bremerton. The USS Turner Joy was involved in many wartime missions, and is perhaps most remembered for its involvement in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which escalated the United States' participation in the Vietnam War.
Securing the restoration funding for the vessel is important not only because we're preserving an important piece of our state's military history, but it also ensures we're not going to be spending more money down the line on a replacement breakwater for the Bremerton Marina. Furthermore, it's a major 26th District tourist attraction and had we not secured funding, the Navy likely would've taken the ship and scrapped it.
Stopping toll increases on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
My seatmates and I worked together on an amendment to the supplemental transportation budget that added $2.5 million to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge account to prevent tolls from increasing. The Transportation Commission had planned to reject the Citizens Advisory Committee's recommendation to not increase the tolls for Good to Go customers, which would've hiked tolls by 25 cents. Instead, the additional $2.5 million added to the Tacoma Narrows bridge account satisfied the Transportation Commission's concerns and prevent the tolls from increasing.
Gov. Inslee signs House Bill 2498 into law
I am very pleased to announce the governor signed my House Bill 2498 into law yesterday. The bill establishes a work group to make recommendations for how to improve the prior authorization system for dental providers in medical assistance programs. The bill was inspired by a mother in Bremerton who spent months advocating on behalf of her daughter, who needed dental surgery. After finding a dentist who accepted Medicaid, the prior authorization sat on the Health Care Authority's desk for months while her daughter's face began swelling from a cyst. Her mother made several phone calls to get help, but did not receive any until she contacted her 26th District representatives. After reaching out to us, her daughter was able to get the prior authorization approved and the surgery performed.
My bill has shed light on these types of problems in our Medicaid system. The work group established by the bill is going to be helpful in looking for ways to address the challenges dental providers currently face when confronted with burdensome and unnecessary regulations like the prior authorization process.
As we head into interim, please continue to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns. My number is (360) 786-7802, and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
It's an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.