E-newsletter – Budgets passed & Legislature adjourned!

July 1st, 2013|

Members of the Senate Debate ESSB 5895, regarding funding education
Budgets passed and Legislature adjourned!
On Saturday we passed the state’s $33.6 billion two-year operating budget and finished what turned out to be a long and arduous budget process. While the process took longer than any of us would have liked, we ended up with a responsible and balanced budget that helps the Spokane community and our entire state move forward in a positive way.This budget is consistent with the values of our district and the feedback our office heard from constituents as received thousands of e-emails and phone calls this session providing comments on the operating budget. Thank you to everyone that provided input during the legislative process. 

I voted for this budget because it invests in opportunity by providing substantial new funding in K-12 education and early learning while preserving the safety net that helps people climb the ladder into the middle class. In addition to strong education investments, this budget supports small businesses and provides funding for other priorities specific to Spokane, like operational funding for the medical school at WSU Spokane, continuing support for Sally’s House, our area’s only emergency foster care center, and an investment to protect the Spokane River through the Spokane River Toxics Task Force.

The original budget that passed the Senate was one I could not support. It funded education by making grievous cuts to homelessness prevention and support for needy families. I’ve always believed that for children to succeed inside the classroom, they also need support outside the classroom in the form of health care, nutrition and safe housing. I made it a line in the sand during budget negotiations that we not fund education at the expense of families and children in need. We must support the whole child to give them the best chance for success in school and in life, and this final budget agreement reflects that value.

I realize this budget is not perfect. While the $1 billion investment in new K-12 education in this budget is a step toward fulfilling our obligation to fully fund K-12 education, it is not as large of a step as I had hoped for. The Supreme Court’s McCleary decision calls for us to increase funding by over $4 billion for K-12 by 2018. This budget puts us on the path to fulfilling our obligation, but we still have a long way to go. Another area of concern is a sweep to the general fund from the Public Works Trust Account. I would have much preferred to close unproductive tax preferences rather than make a sweep from the Public Works Trust Fund, which is vital to supporting pressing infrastructure needs. Particularly disappointing to me in this budget is the elimination of state funding for Innovate Washington, a state agency based in Spokane that supports economic development throughout our state.

Even with the flaws, I was proud to vote for a budget that funds education, supports small businesses and provides a helping hand for our most vulnerable citizens.

Capital Budget

The capital budget is a jobs budget that will put people to work in Spokane immediately, support successful non-profit organizations serving our community, and build the foundation for our economic prosperity for generations to come. This capital budget also has an important appropriation to buy land in the Fairchild Air Force Base ‘crash zone’ which help keep Fairchild safe and operational into the future.  I greatly appreciate the efforts of my seatmates, Rep. Timm Ormsby and Rep. Marcus Riccelli who helped lead the way for our community on these projects throughout the legislative session.

The Spokane area capital budget projects include: 

  • $11.8 million to expand facilities at the Spokane Skills Center in the Hillyard neighborhood. This skills center serves 700 students during the school year and 500 students during the summer, training them in academic and work skills to help them enter the job market or advanced educational or technical programs. 
  • $2.7 million to purchase property in the Fairchild Air Force Base’s “Accident Potential Zone,” to remove residential property from the crash area near the base.
  • $250,000 for a fire suppression safety system at the Emmanuel Family Life Center, a community center that provides key services to low-income children and their families. This will allow a child care program for low-income families to permanently move into the building.
  • $230,000 to improve a building for the use of the Lower Falls Community Center. The project will allow the community center’s youth program to move into the Browne’s Addition neighborhood to reach more residents and provide more services. I would like to thank Spokane City Councilmembers Jon Snyder and Mike Allen for all of their efforts in advocating for this project. 
  • $1 million for Spokane Public Radio out of the Building For The Arts fund. This funding will allow Spokane Public Radio to purchase a historic building for office and production space and new broadcast studios, to ensure access to public radio across the Inland Northwest.
  • $600,000 to support the Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) purchase the former Dominican Center convent campus, so that this important program can continue to provide services for some of our most vulnerable population. 
  • $1.5 million for the Spokane Valley Tech Skills Center to help them offer educational programs in engineering, entrepreneurship, computer science and training in other skills that are in demand by employers.    
Keeping In TouchAlthough the active legislative session has come to a close, I still want to stay in close touch. In some ways, the interim period between sessions is an even better time to meet with constituents and learn more about the opportunities and challenges in our community.  If you have a comment, idea, question or an invitation for me to attend an event or tour a business/organization in Spokane, please let me know. 

You can reach me by e-mail (andy.billig@leg.wa.gov) or by phone at 509-209-2427. 

And if you know someone who would like to get their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, tell them they can go to my website at http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/billig/ and click on the link to “Sign up for my e-newsletter.”