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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inslee signs billion-dollar budgets for the final time during his run as governor

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the state’s supplemental operating and capital budget Friday for the final time during his 12-year tenure as governor.  (Lauren Rendahl/The Spokesman-Review)

SEATTLE – On a bright and sunny Western Washington morning, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the state’s supplemental budgets for the last time during his 12-year tenure.

“The trees are blooming, the pileated woodpeckers are pecking and the only thing we can do to make it more beautiful is to sign a great budget, and I’m going to sign a great budget,” Inslee said on Friday.

Lawmakers, medical professionals and many Washingtonians gathered at the new University of Washington Center for Behavioral Health and Learning, funded by the state. They joined the governor as he signed the supplemental operating and capital budgets, along with several behavioral health policy bills.

Before the signing, Inslee reflected on his time as governor. He noted that K-12 funding has doubled in the past decade, the Legislature has made “historic investments in housing and health care,” and highlighted the state’s leading climate policies through the Climate Commitment Act.

“And we finally have a state dinosaur, the Susiasaurus rex. We finally have a state waterfall, Palouse Falls. And we finally have a state sport, pickleball,” Inslee said.

This year, an additional $2.1 billion is added to the $68.9 billion operating budget passed last year, and another $1.3 billion is allocated to the $9 billion capital budget for construction projects. Inslee signed the $1 billion supplemental transportation budget on Thursday.

“These are the three biggest bills of the year, the three most substantial bills, and they all had a strong bipartisan majority,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, is the lead Republican capital budget writer.

He said the budgets represent “priorities over pork,” and allots state dollars to address Eastern Washington emergencies, including the Spokane County fires last summer.

Here’s a look at where state dollars will go this year.

K-12 education is getting a nearly $333 million boost, with over $70 million set aside for both student transportation and buses, as well as increased school staffing, particularly for paraeducators.

In the capital budget, $144 million is allocated for the modernization of small district and tribal compact schools, and $45 million is going toward improved air quality and energy efficiency in schools.

Washington State University received $10 million for a new digester at the Knott Dairy Center, where Cougar Gold cheese is made, and Eastern Washington University received $10 million for energy improvements in the sports and recreation center.

A significant portion of the budget is going toward behavioral health projects, with more than $30 million for opioid response and prevention programs, and $66 million for additional behavioral health hospital beds, staffing and facility support statewide.

In the Spokane area, $5 million will fund the Kalispel tribe inpatient treatment center, and $2 million is going toward the expansion of the Seven Nations Healing Lodge.

Lawmakers also made sure to allocate relief funds for the Gray and Oregon Road fires, with $3.5 million for fire cleanup in Medical Lake, and another $975,000 for recovery.

Some $150 million from the state’s leading carbon policy will provide a $200 electricity bill rebate to low- and middle-income families, an expense drawing criticism from many Republican lawmakers. If an initiative to repeal the Climate Commitment Act is approved by voters in November, however, those funds are in jeopardy.

Homelessness was another big area of funds, with almost $82 million set aside for housing programs and services. Some $4 million from the state’s general fund will provide temporary emergency shelter for homeless people in Spokane, and $1 million will go toward contracting behavioral health support services for homeless youth in Spokane.

The Legislature also earmarked an additional $175 million into the Housing Trust Fund for the construction of nearly 2,000 affordable housing units, meant to keep up with the state’s growing population.

The supplemental transportation budget allocates $260 million for highway maintenance across the state, $1.8 million for the Sunset Highway bike path project in Spokane and sets aside dollars for new ferry boats.