State Relations

December 10, 2015

Ramping up toward 2016 session; Governor’s budget release is imminent

It’s that time of year again! No, not holiday shopping and what some affectionately call “butter season,” but the crescendo toward the opening of the 2016 Washington legislative session!

As a “short” 60-day session, expectations are generally modest, as they usually provide a limited opportunity for both policy-making and funding. Why? Two primary reasons: 1- Because the biennial budget has already been adopted, a supplemental budget typically offers only small changes in terms of funding. 2- With every House member and half of the Senate up for re-election, legislators are often cautious about significant new policy endeavors and are anxious about being held accountable for big changes in the re-election cycle.

Arguably, the release of the governor’s proposed budget is the unofficial kickoff of the session. This year, the budget release is expected on December 17

The outlook for the budget release, however, isn’t terribly rosy. The November 18 state revenue forecast reported an additional $113 million for the 2105-17 biennium, and an additional $30 million in 2017-19. Meanwhile, according to the governor’s budget office, state costs to maintain current services and other mandatory costs for the current biennium have grown by nearly $700 million. This is made up of increased costs to maintain current programs as a result of increasing caseloads, fire suppression costs, lawsuit costs, mental health needs, and other urgent needs.

December 17 is just around the corner, and we’re eager for the governor to unveil his spending proposal. It would be excellent to see some higher education priorities wrapped up with a big red bow. Perhaps we’ll even leave out some milk and cookies on the 16th just for good measure.