Yesterday was the last day that the Legislature, under its self-imposed rules, could consider bills that are not related to the budget. From here on, legislative activities will quiet down. The exception will be when the House and Senate officially resolve their differences on bills that have passed both bodies. Without argument, the most important expected compromise is the 2023-25 operating budget for the state.
Budget Action Alert Still Active
It is not too late to weigh in with your voice on the budget. The House has passed SB 5187 with a nearly 1,300 page striker amendment laying out a different spending version than passed by the Senate less than a week before. While the Senate and House conferees negotiate the final budget, you can help by leaving a comment in support of the House version of the budget for how it handles the following:
$4 million for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program,
$5 million for the Washington 211 system,
$1.9 million for the Growing Resilience in Tacoma (GRIT) guaranteed basic income pilot project.
Housing Issues and Funding Still Active
Bills, such as HB 1124, HB 1388 and HB 1389 which would have required notice requirements, protections and limits on rent increases, have apparently stalled out. However, SB 5197, which amends the Landlord-Tenant Act, has been approved by both the House and Senate (different versions) and awaits reconciliation. Meanwhile, negotiations continue on HB 5200 which will direct capital budget spending for Washington during the upcoming biennium. While the Housing Trust Fund is expected to receive at least $400 million in funding, the Governor’s proposal for a $4 billion housing referendum is still in question. Another bill to watch is HB 1628. This bill has not moved out of the House yet but could be considered a budget-related bill. It would add a new state real estate excise tax of 4 percent to apply on that portion of the selling price that is above $5,000,000 starting January 1, 2025. Currently, the highest excise tax rate is 3 percent for that portion of the sale price that exceeds $3,025,000. The bill also would allow an additional local option excise tax. Funds would go toward housing programs outlined in the bill.
Child Care Program Access Broadened
The Working Connections Child Care program, a federally and state-funded program that provides child care subsidies to families, will be available to families with household incomes at or below 85 percent (up from the current 60 percent) of the state median income with the passage of SB 5225. If the Governor signs this bill into law, it goes into effect October 1.
Senate Passes Expansion of Free School Meals
While amended from its original intent of un[versal free school meals, HB 1238 still expands the number of schools offering free meals to all their students. The Senate passed an amended version yesterday. The House and Senate will have to resolve their differences before final passage.