OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state House of Representatives budget writers have proposed spending $69.5 billion for state expenses for the next two years.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, said the budget proposal for the 2023-25 biennial prioritizes improving the state's workforce and addressing the state's housing crisis.
In a statement, Ormsby called the proposal "responsible and sustainable."
“We are proposing a biennial budget that invests in our teachers, students, and schools," Ormsby said. "It prioritizes behavioral health, housing and homelessness, and poverty reduction. This budget reflects the values of our House Democratic Caucus and what we have heard from the people of Washington."
The House proposal includes $704 million for affordable housing and $893 million for behavioral health.
However, state Rep. Drew Stokesbary, the highest-ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said he would have liked budget writers to include tax cuts in the proposal and said not enough money is going toward helping students who suffered learning loss during the pandemic.
"I'm kind of troubled by how much more this proposal would spend," said Stokesbary of Auburn.
No new taxes are created under the proposed budget, but House members said that could change as the legislative session progresses. Stokesbary said there's "still a chance" new taxes could be included in the proposal.
The proposal includes support for Gov. Jay Inslee's $4 billion referendum to borrow money to address a shortage in housing and support for the homeless population.
The budget proposal released Monday includes funding to begin debt payments on those bonds.
Stokesbary said he is not sure the governor's $4 billion referendum is the best way to help solve the state's housing shortage.
"If we are going to be as bold as the governor wants, I think we need better ideas than the governor has," said Stokesbary.
Ormsby said he hoped to pass the budget off the House floor next week.
At that point, the House will negotiate with the Senate on a final budget.
Last week, the state Senate unveiled plans for a $69.2 billion spending plan. The Senate proposal included $5.1 billion in new spending for education, housing, behavioral health, public safety and climate change with $3.8 billion set aside for reserves.
Legislators from both chambers have until April 23 to pass a balanced, two-year budget.