On a bipartisan vote of 34-13, the Washington State Senate passed HB 1087, the 2011-13 Operating Budget. Passage comes in the final few hours of the 2011 legislature’s first special session, just a day after announcement of an agreement between House and Senate budget leaders.
The agreement, which will allocate $32.2 billion from the general fund and related accounts for the two years starting July 1, settles differences between the budgets proposed by the House and Senate during the first half of April. It also reflects cost savings created through a number of operating efficiencies, reforms and other measures.
As chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, led budget negotiations for the Senate.
“As lawmakers, we have an obligation to balance the budget – and we have. But we also have an obligation to our communities to ensure a high quality of life for all Washingtonians,” Murray said. “Thanks to the bipartisanship found in the Senate, we have achieved both these goals.”
Murray credited bipartisanship for the ability to preserve key public services like the Basic Health Plan, Disability Lifeline, and Apple Health. “We reduce but preserve key public services and maintain Democratic priorities while putting our state on sound fiscal footing so that, should we ever endure a fiscal crisis similar to today’s, we will stand ready and adept to handle the situation,” he said.
Murray emphasized that not only does the budget reflect targeted cuts designed to reduce but not eliminate essential services, it makes targeted investments as well.
“We place our limited resources where they will produce the greatest benefit – reducing K-3 class size in high poverty schools, maintaining the state need grant to offset tuition increases, providing expanded worker retraining, and increasing low-income housing support,” Murray said.
“This budget is the result of months of negotiations among Democrats and Republicans and between the House and the Senate,” he added. “I would like to extend my gratitude to my Republican counterpart in the Senate and my Democratic counterpart in the House, as well as to the Governor for her leadership and support during some of the more difficult impasses.”
The bill passed the chamber unamended and now heads to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law. With most pieces now set in place, it is expected that the legislature will adjourn sine die by the midnight deadline.