Friends—the end of session is in sight. We’re a little over three weeks away from when the legislature will adjourn. The technical name is Sine Die, a Latin term that means, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here”. When adjourned sine die, it means that the assembly has concluded without a day set for reconvening.
All that to say, legislators are feeling a different kind of pressure: getting things done.
In addition to pushing their priority bills over the finish line, the big ticket item is the budget. Both House and Senate have released their proposals, and leadership will spend the next 20 days or so hammering out how to bring them into alignment.
These budgets are big. Including about $7 billion in federal relief funds, we’re looking at $58 to 59 billion, depending on if the House or Senate, respectively, get their way. That’s about a 10% increase over the current budget, which we love, because our communities need that kind of investment.
But the biggest takeaway is that these budgets represent perhaps the most dramatic restructuring of our state’s economy in recent memory (read that in Chris Harrison’s Bachelor announcement voice). We’re taxing the rich and using those funds to make life easier for everyday Washingtonians. If that’s not Thanos-collecting-the-infinity-stones-level legislating right there, we don’t know what is.
Here are six things in the budget that we’re excited about:
- Capital gains tax: This idea has been floating around the legislature for over a decade (about as long as Washington has been known for having the most regressive tax code in the country). We’ve been talking about this a lot, but the importance of this new $550 million per year in both budgets cannot be overstated.
- Working Families Tax Credit: Low-income and working families are about to get $500-950 in direct cash (largely funded from the capital gains tax).
- Vacating drug charges: The House and Senate are about $60 million apart on how to address the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which decriminalized drug possession and has caused a cascade of drug-related sentencing changes and vacancies.
- Universal Basic Income study: You read that right, baby. The Senate allocated $77 thousand for the Department of Social and Health Services to study the feasibility of and make a recommendation for our very own UBI program by June of next year.
- Public bank cooperative study: After years of talking about a public bank, the Senate wants to give the State Treasurer over $10 million in this biennium to figure out how to structure local-level public cooperatives.
- Public broadband budget: $490 million is set aside in the Senate budget, most of which comes from the federal relief aid, to expand broadband internet service throughout the state.
TL;DR–it’s no understatement to say that this is one of the most progressive years in the history of the Washington State legislature. Between these big milestones, expanding vaccine access, and this dog’s reunion with his beloved unicorn buddy, we’re heading into the weekend pretty happy.
What do you think? Have any questions? Tweet us your thoughts @wacommalliance. Keep up with the action and opportunities to get involved with our legislative newsletter The Tally.