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Senate releases proposed supplemental budget

by caprecord

Senate Republicans released a supplemental budget proposal Wednesday that focuses spending on wildfires and mental health, while also restoring money to charter schools to keep the schools open in Washington.

“Not only does it make investments where we need it, but we also have policy and reforms to go along with those investments,” said lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill at a briefing with reporters.

It does not tap into the state’s “rainy day” fund, which House Democrats have proposed using to pay for homeless programs. Hill said the Senate is instead narrowly focusing on youth homelessness by adding about 52 temporary youth shelter beds.

Sen. Andy Hill and Sen. John Braun

The Senate proposal spends $54 million on mental health, including salary increases and extra staffing at Western State Hospital. A geriatric ward at the psychiatric hospital would be moved out of the hospital and put in a private nursing home.

“The whole idea is open up forensic beds in general,” Hill said. 

The budget provides $6.6 million for charter schools out of the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account.

Hill said the charter school funds won’t have an impact on the budget because that money was included at the start of the fiscal year, then removed when the Washington Supreme Court declared charter schools unconstitutional. “Now we’re adding it back in,” he said. 

Senate Republicans say the primary difference between their proposal and the one by House Democrats is the level of spending.

“We spend about $49 million more in this biennium, they spend about $500 million more in this biennium. If you cut right to the chase, they spend 10 times more money than we do in new adds,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia. 

Both supplemental budgets pay for wildfire costs from last year’s season — the Senate includes $173 million, while the House proposal is about $190 million.

Read the Senate’s full budget documents at this link. The proposal is scheduled for a hearing at 3:30 on Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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