Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature, but vetoed a section that would have cut funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.
The fund provides research grants for the life sciences industry, and was established under former Gov. Chris Gregoire with money from tobacco settlements. The budget would have phased out $20 million for the fund and ended the program early.
Inslee said cutting off the funding prematurely is “short sighted,” and ignores the contributions the fund has made to the state.
He cited a program that was developed by the University of Washington and the Foundation for Health Care Quality using a $1.3 million dollar grant from the fund. That program cut healthcare costs by tens of millions of dollars by reducing the number of unnecessary surgeries and surgical complications, Inslee said.
Republican Sen. John Braun criticized the governor’s veto, saying it creates a bigger budget problem for next year by “punching a $20 million dollar hole.” He said the decision to cut funding was a difficult one for legislators on both sides the aisle, but was ultimately supported by 90 percent of lawmakers.
“To do a surprise veto at the end is disappointing,” Braun said.
The supplemental budget signed by the governor spends about $155 million dollars, including an additional $58 million for schools and $20 million for mental health services.
Inslee described it as a “modest” budget, and said he was frustrated it didn’t put more money into education by closing tax loopholes as he proposed. Next year, the state will need more than $1.5 billion dollars to fund the next step of McCleary obligations to pay for basic education, he said.
Braun said closing tax loopholes is a “tired” proposal, and Republicans believe the number needed for McCleary is closer to $750 million and can be achieved by prioritizing spending.
Inslee also vetoed several other sections of the supplemental budget. Read the full veto list here.
TVW taped the bill signing ceremony — watch it online here.