This week the legislature’s focus is on “all things fiscal.” The House and Senate have been busy working on the Operating, Capital, and Transportation budgets. All three budgets are immune from the normal session cut-offs. Only the Operating Budget—about $70 billion—to keep the state running for the next two years (biennium) must be approved before adjourning April 23.
Both House and Senate fiscal committees have been meeting for long hours to hear and vote on dozens of bills impacting the budgets. Some bills bring in new revenues, while others expend state dollars. The fiscal committees have the most legislators serving on them of all the committees, intended to keep more eyes watching over how Washington’s tax dollars are spent.
At this point, the House and Senate will convene a negotiating group. Formally this group iis called a Conference Committee. The formation of this committee isn’t required but is often the structure most utilized. The majority party will have four representatives, and the minority party will have two. The representatives will haggle over differences between their two proposals and produce an agreed-upon final Operating Budget, preferably consulting the Governor in the process. This massive spending plan will then come before the full House and Senate for an up or down vote. Amendments will not be offered on the floor. The Budget will then proceed to the Governor for his careful review. In Washington State, the Governor has line-item veto authority and can eliminate particular spending provisions. The state fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
WR is advocating for—and encouraging the legislature to include—funding for the Organized Retail Crime Task Force. The Governor and Senate have each included $2.2 million to bolster the task force with essential staff. The House has recommended $1.1 million. WR and its members support the higher Senate-proposed amount of $2.2 million, and have urged policy makers to include full funding in the final budget.