LOS ANGELES — Washington State’s governor signed a two-year $47.3 billion operating budget Friday night, averting a government shutdown.
“I am proud to sign a historic budget that fully funds our schools for the first time in more than 30 years,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This budget, at long last, meets our constitutional obligations to fully fund basic education, and addresses the responsibilities we have under the McCleary decision to equitably fund our schools.”
The hold-up on the budget was a disagreement over education funding. Inslee signed it on the last day of the state’s fiscal year.
Because legislators had not yet approved a new operating budget, state agencies have had to prepare contingency plans in case of a government shutdown.
The state still has not approved a full capital budget, meaning some state workers will be temporarily laid off, according to the governor's office.
In addition to funding for schools, the new operating budget also has a number of provisions that help families and workers while strengthening Washington’s mental health system.
The final budget funds significant changes to integrate the state's mental and physical health systems. It also funds collective bargaining agreements to provide pay raises for state employees, and protects funding for health care programs for people with disabilities, services for the elderly and job training.
“This budget is a great example of bipartisan cooperation. It really shows what can be done when we work together,” Inslee said.
Inslee had called two 30-day special sessions to give lawmakers more time to come to a consensus, but it looked unlikely up to the final hour before the new fiscal year began.
Washington is operating under a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling mandating that the state fully fund its basic education system and have a plan in place to do so by the 2017-2018 school year. A bipartisan state task force convened last year met for months leading up to the start of the regular legislative session in January of this year. The panel deadlocked along party lines and didn’t adopt any recommendations. Democrats have supported a capital gains tax-heavy approach, while Republicans have backed a property tax-based plan.
Inslee had said last Monday that the pace of legislative negotiations was unlikely to result in a deal before the second special session expired.
The governor notified government agencies last week of the necessary steps to take in the event of a government shutdown.
In the event of a shutdown, many government agencies probably would have functioned at only the most basic level or ceased to operate at all. Construction projects, road maintenance, and state government assistance to local governments could be affected.