The Washington State Legislature approved a $33.6 billion, two-year operating budget on Friday evening, then sent it to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
Inslee said in a statement he’ll begin reviewing the nearly 500-page document immediately and plans to “sign it this weekend in time to ensure that state government will be open for business Monday morning.”
The state Senate approved the budget on a vote of 44-4 on Friday afternoon, then immediately sent it to the House for consideration. The House passed it with a vote of 81-11.
The budget puts $1 billion into basic education and increases funding to the higher education system, allowing state colleges and universities to keep tuition at current levels.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said in a floor speech that coming to an agreement on the budget was a “a long process, but it has been a a great process in terms of what we have accomplished.”
Tom and other lawmakers praised the budget for increasing higher education spending by 12.4 percent. “I don’t think anybody out there in the higher education institutions would have ever dreamed at the beginning of this session…that we’d actually be making a greater investment in higher education,” Tom said.
Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, spoke in support of the budget, saying it reflects her “core democratic principles.” But she warned it will lead to challenges in the future because it relies on a $500 million shift from the capital budget, as well as $500 million in federal subsidies.
“We still have to look at revenue in the future that we can invest in children’s education,” Nelson said.
The budget agreement was announced just days before the state government would have been forced to shut down.
“We owe Washingtonians an apology for taking so long to get here,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. He said the stress that the budget delay caused to families was “unacceptable.”
“Tens of thousands of Washingtonians didn’t know if they would have a job in three days,” said Ranker.
The budget passed on the 17th day of the second special session.