Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For the first time since February 22, 2020, Rep. Brad Klippert and I are set to host an in-person town hall meeting in Richland. We're really looking forward to meeting with all of you to share our thoughts on this year's 60-day legislative session, take your questions, and discuss the most important issues facing our district and state.
Details are as follows:
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Time: 7-8 p.m.
Location: The Arc of Tri-Cities
Address: 1455 SE Fowler St., Richland
Earlier this year, we held a virtual town hall meeting that was really well-attended, so we're hoping to see similar attendance on Tuesday. We're fortunate enough to have 610 KONA's Robb Francis as our moderator. If you have any questions about the town hall, please feel free to send me an email at Matt.Boehnke@leg.wa.gov.
A look at the three supplemental budgets the Legislature passed this session
As I shared in my last email update, there were a number of missed opportunities this session, including the Legislature's failure to deliver tax relief. Instead of using some of our record $15 billion budget surplus to provide a permanent half-point sales tax cut, which is what House Republicans proposed, Democrats chose instead to spend nearly all of that money. In the end, they didn't even end up passing their own bill to provide a three-day sales tax holiday in September to help families with back-to-school costs. With inflation at a 40-year high, the most expensive gas prices we've seen since 2008, and ongoing supply chain shortages, we should've taken advantage of the opportunity to ease some of your financial burdens. The majority simply has no excuse for their failure to prioritize tax relief.
The state's operating budget has more than doubled in size since the 2011-13 biennium. I don't know anyone who has seen their household budget increase 111% in the last 10 years. It's unfortunate the prevailing priority for the majority is growing the size and scope of government instead of returning your tax dollars back to you.
While bipartisan collaboration and agreement on the state's operating budget is difficult due to our differing approaches on taxes and spending, the same cannot be said for the capital budget, which funds various construction projects throughout the state. In recent years, the budget has made significant investments in mental and behavioral health, water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, affordable housing, school seismic safety, and more.
The 2022 supplemental capital budget spends a total of $1.5 billion, building on the $6.3 billion 2021-23 capital budget the Legislature passed last year. Highlights include:
- $300 million for rapid capital housing acquisition for quick conversion into shelters, permanent supportive housing, or transitional housing.
- $120 million for the Public Works Board to issue grants and loans to local governments for infrastructure projects.
- $114.5 million for the Housing Trust Fund, including $25 million for projects benefiting first-time home buyers.
- $100 million for broadband infrastructure grants.
- $100 million for seismic safety retrofits to school buildings at high risk of severe earthquake damage.
- $60 million for grants to expand and add capacity for crisis triage and crisis stabilization facilities for adults, including $12 million for at least two residential crisis stabilization facilities for youth.
- $26.3 million in Behavioral Health Capacity grants for community mental health services, including long-term civil commitments, triage, diversion, detox, and adolescent services.
Here locally, highlights include:
- $1.5 million in additional funding for the Three Rivers Behavioral Health Recovery Center project, which will fill a major unmet need in our region upon completion. In the 2021-23 capital budget, $2.75 million was provided for planning-related costs. The funds allocated in this year's supplemental budget will be used to acquire an existing hospital facility that is no longer used and is suitable for renovation to accommodate the new behavioral health facility.
- $500,000 for the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. Funding will allow for an additional 2,000 dental appointments to be made by residents.
- $270,000 for a replacement boat for Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, which is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer agency that provides water rescue and recovery services to law enforcement, fire, and other emergency service agencies.
The 2022 supplemental capital budget was approved 49-0 in the Senate and 98-0 in the House. It is currently on the governor's desk awaiting his signature.
The 2022 supplemental transportation budget approved by the Legislature this session will provide $11.6 billion for the 2021-23 transportation budget. Funds in the budget are allocated for the maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Washington State Ferry system, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies. The budget was approved 45-4 in the Senate and 93-5 in the House. It, too, is on the governor's desk awaiting his signature.
In addition to the 2022 supplemental transportation budget, there was a separate transportation package the majority pushed through this session without bipartisan cooperation. It's a 16-year, $17 billion package that is heavily focused on the Puget Sound region. As with the operating budget, important projects are funded in it, but I had to vote no out of respect for Washington taxpayers. Not only does the package raise fees on Washingtonians, but it uses fees from policies that will further increase the cost of fuel.
I'm looking forward to talking about all of these spending plans, and more, on Tuesday.
Although session is now over, please know I am here to serve you year-round. I encourage you to continue contacting me with your comments, questions, or concerns. My email address is Matt.Boehnke@leg.wa.gov, and my office number is (509) 315-2315.
It is an honor to serve you. I hope to see you on Tuesday!