Lawmakers Prepare For Swift Budget Vote
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OLYMPIA (AP) — Washington lawmakers hurried Friday to vote on a new state budget totaling $33.6 billion, just hours after making it available to the public.
The 483-page spending plan was released overnight Friday, and lawmakers hope to pass the measure before the end of the day, so that state workers leaving for the weekend will know that their jobs will still be there on Monday morning. Much of state government would shut down if lawmakers fail to finalize the budget by the end of the weekend.
Budget negotiators reached a final deal on the spending plan Thursday after grappling over the details for weeks. Both Republicans and Democrats highlighted how the measure would add $1 billion to the state’s education system while providing enough money to universities that tuition would remain at current levels.
However, the budget plan includes hundreds of other spending and policy proposals. Here’s a sampling of some of the more unique parts of the budget bill, as identified by The Associated Press:
— The Geoduck Harvest Safety Committee is created to submit recommendations that may establish a safety program for divers seeking the mollusks native to the Pacific Northwest. Total cost: $265,000.
— New entities: The University of Washington will receive $7 million to create a Clean Energy Institute and a Center on Ocean Acidification in order to conduct research on their namesake issues. Such environmental matters have been a focus of Gov. Jay Inslee.
— $50,000 is provided to conduct a cost and impact study of Covington Town Center. That’s the home city of House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan.
— Wolf conflict: The Legislature gives $600,000 to a Washington State University program so that it can conduct public outreach on non-lethal ways of limiting conflict between livestock and wild carnivores.
— The governor’s office would get a new director of military affairs, at a total cost of $300,000. The person would help the governor’s office coordinate with state agencies and local communities on military issues. The state already has an adjutant general of the Military Department that oversees the National Guard and emergency response matters.
— State employees who use state health insurance will be charged $25 a month if they smoke. They will be charged an additional $50 a month if the state worker’s spouse is on the government plan when another employer plan is available to them.
— Noxious weeds: $500,000 is allocated to handle weed management and work on the eradication of noxious weeds.
— Lawmakers spend $2 million to purchase scientific equipment for Washington State University biomedical and health sciences building in Spokane.
The budget also includes a variety of cuts. Budget writers booked $30 million in savings from the implementation of lean management practices. Lawmakers again suspended voter-approved cost of living increases for school employees, saving $320 million. Budget writers booked $7.7 million in savings from delaying the opening of a medium security prison unit.
Lawmakers save a lot of money by implementing President Barack Obama’s health care law thanks to more federal money.
About $350 million of the operating budget is funded by transfers, much of it coming from the state’s public works assistance account, meaning there will be fewer dollars available to support such local projects.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.