January 21, 1995 in City

Senate Unanimously Approves Supplemental Budget Ease In Passing $40 Million Spending Plan Sparks Optimism In Party Leaders

Associated Press
 

The Washington Senate Friday gave rare unanimous approval to a $40 million supplemental state budget.

Leaders in both parties said the early show of bipartisanship could pave the way for a fairly smooth 105-day session, at least in the Senate. Speakers from both sides of the aisle praised the budget plan for the few months remaining in the fiscal year.

The Senate approved the bill, SB5103, on a 47-0 vote and sent it to the House, where majority Republicans were being urged to act quickly.

Moving with unusual speed and virtually no debate, the Ways and Means Committee late Thursday gave unanimous approval to the measure providing for adjustments in the current two-year, $16.3 billion state budget.

It covers everything from $48 million to reimburse firefighting costs for last summer’s Eastern Washington fires to $48 million for school construction.

Much of the new spending is offset by lower-than-expected public school enrollment and welfare and medical aid - an $86 million drop in the medical assistance program alone.

A vote by the full Senate was scheduled for today.

Lowry had proposed a larger budget, $163 million, primarily to use part of the current surplus for state debt service. That action would have saved $127 million in the 1995-97 budget that could be used for other state spending, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called it an end-run around the intent of I-601.

The initiative limits state spending growth to inflation, plus population growth, and any surpluses are supposed to be placed in a “rainy day” reserve fund for use in bad economic times.

“There was no support in either party for hanging onto the money” for current spending, said Chairwoman Nita Rinehart, D-Seattle. Writing a new budget with $127 million more “would make our job easier, but our job isn’t to make our job easier,” she said.

The Senate budget would leave a one-time $526 million surplus at the end of the budget year, June 30. Any money carried forward into the new biennium cannot be used for operating expenses, but lawmakers have proposed using some of it for tax relief.

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