Every two years, during 105-day legislative sessions, Washington lawmakers must craft, debate and ultimately approve a two-year state operating budget. The budget funds everything from K-12 public schools to colleges and universities, state parks to state prisons, health care and child care and social services, and much much more.
Out of the 147 legislators, four are chosen by their colleagues to be the lead budget writers for their respective parties in both House and Senate. These budget leaders come from diverse backgrounds, and diverse areas of Washington: Spokane, Vancouver, Kitsap and Auburn.
For Inside Olympia‘s first episode of 2023, we sit down with two of those budget leaders: Democratic State Senator Christine Rolfes, from the Kitsap Peninsula, chairs the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Republican State Senator Lynda Wilson is the ranking Republican on that committee.
In December, Governor Jay Inslee proposed his state budget. It included a proposal to change the state debt limit — with voter approval — in order to sell $4 billion in state bonds to finance construction of affordable housing.
But it is legislators who will write the budget, and they will decide the fate of the governor’s proposal amid a host of other budgetary priorities. Writing the budget, a document which runs into multiple hundreds of pages, is an all-consuming process which budget writers work on all session, and which often is not decided until the waning days of the session. By the time the Legislature adjourns on Sunday April 23, a final budget is expected.
Learn more about the budgetary plans and priorities of majority Democrats and minority Republicans, this week on Inside Olympia.