Senate Republicans publicly released a new supplemental budget proposal on Friday that makes a number of changes from the version previously passed off the Senate floor.
It would increase spending in the two-year current budget by $178 million, up from $34 million. It no longer counts savings from a controversial plan to merge the public pension for certain law enforcement officers and firefighters with a pension for retired teachers. And it taps into the rainy day fund to pay $190 million in costs associated with last summer’s wildfires in Eastern Washington.
Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said it is a “true supplemental budget” that balances over four years and addresses emergencies, while also fixing concerns that were raised with the previous proposal.
“You’ll see a number of small issues that people had concerns with on both sides of the aisle that we’ve addressed,” Hill said.
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said Democrats identified 15 concerns with the previous Republican proposal. The new version “addresses every single one of them,” he said.
“I think we’ve moved in a number of ways,” Braun said.
House Democrats in February passed a separate plan off the floor that also uses the rainy day fund for wildfires, but spends significantly more overall and includes pay raises for teachers in an effort to improve the state’s teacher shortage.
House Democrats acknowledged Friday the budget moves closer to their position, but say they are disappointed in the way it was revealed.
Lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Hans Dunshee said there are “some things in there we like and some places they came in our direction,” but they remain far apart on a few items.
He said the Republican budget does not address the teacher shortage or women’s reproductive health. It also finds $13 million in savings by making changes to a program for the aged, blind and disabled.
“These are folks who have trouble accessing healthcare system and to move them from plan to plan for what we think is fictitious savings is dangerous for those people,” Dunshee said.
Democrats say they submitted their latest budget offer to Republicans on Tuesday evening, and did not get a response until hours before the start of the special session on Thursday when they learned of the new Senate Republican plan.
“They spent time crafting their own budget rather than negotiating with us,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan. “Had this offer been made on Tuesday, we could have made substantial progress and maybe even finished our work before the end of session.”
Braun responded by saying Republicans spent those two days “trying to understand how or if [Democrats] were going to come off their current position.” He said Republicans felt it was time to share with the public what they believe the supplemental budget should look like.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the supplemental budget proposal on Friday. Watch TVW video of the hearing here.