Monthly Archives: April 2019

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    Historic ‘public option’ healthcare bill passes Legislature, heads to Inslee’s desk

Historic ‘public option’ healthcare bill passes Legislature, heads to Inslee’s desk

April 28th, 2019|

— A bill passed April 27 by the Washington State Legislature would create a public option for health care coverage, available through Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange. The plan would be known as Cascade Care, and would be the first public health insurance option in the nation.

Senate Bill 5526, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), and led in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Eileen Cody, will give Washingtonians who purchase healthcare coverage on the individual insurance market an option that would decrease the cost of premiums, copays and other out-of-pocket expenses. Gov. Jay Inslee also supported the legislation, and worked with lawmakers throughout the process.

The bill passed with a 56-41 vote in the House, and a 27-21 vote in the Senate.

“Under the current administration in Washington DC, health care policy has gone backwards,” Frockt said. “Their policies have led to dramatic increases in premiums and deductibles for our residents who don’t have employer sponsored coverage rely on coverage from our health benefit exchange.”

Cascade Care will lend predictability by establishing standard benefit packages that are easier for consumers to understand and navigate, and will lower cost sharing — which includes deductibles and copays. The plan will also make cost sharing more transparent and predictable.

“Cascade Care is the next step in affordable and accessible health care for everyone and further demonstrates the Democratic desire to ensure access to care. It is that dedication that has led to the state’s lowest uninsured rate ever and a guarantee of essential health benefits to keep Washington families healthy,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, Chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.

Cascade Care will be available to all Washingtonians, regardless of income, who are not covered by employer health plans. Washingtonians who receive care through an employer, Medicare or Apple Care will not be affected.

The bill has passed both the House and the Senate, and now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing

“Every Washingtonian deserves access to consistent and affordable health insurance,” Frockt said. “We need to ensure that people in every county of our state have options to buy into the individual market. Cascade Care takes imperative steps to establish lower premiums and deductibles. This new option with standardized plans will not only make insurance coverage more affordable, but will allow people to have better access to care when they need it.”

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    Senate’s capital budget proposes life-changing investments in infrastructure

Senate’s capital budget proposes life-changing investments in infrastructure

April 28th, 2019|

The Washington State Senate today approved a two-year capital budget that would invest in priority infrastructure across the state in the areas of behavioral health, affordable housing, education and the environment.

The budget passed with a unanimous vote.

“The bipartisan support of this budget highlights the investments it makes on behalf of all Washingtonians,” said Sen. David Frockt, vice chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and the Senate’s lead capital budget writer. “The capital budget supports our schools, improvements to our behavioral health system, the environment, and other values that are so key to the Washington way of life.”

The budget invests $120 million in community based behavioral health investments, helping patients transition to care in their own communities.

It also includes $33.2 million for predesign, planning and design of a new, 150-bed behavioral health teaching facility at the University of Washington Medical Center. This project has broad bipartisan support and is seen as a critical component of Washington’s long-term strategy to create a new paradigm for mental health treatment in Washington State. 

“Washington is transitioning to a behavioral health system that helps and protects our most vulnerable neighbors, and this budget supports that,” Frockt said. “Our investment in the Housing Trust Fund compliments that investment — particularly a $35 million investment in housing with behavioral health supports.”

The budget includes $175 million in affordable housing loans and grants through the Housing Trust Fund. Allocations within the Housing Trust Fund include:

  • $10 million for high-quality modular housing to transition people out of homelessness quickly.
  • $35 million for supportive housing and case management services for people living with behavioral health disorders.
  • $10 million for competitively awarded grants for state matches on private contributions to fund affordable housing
  • $10 million for housing preservation grants
  • $5 million for housing veterans
  • $5 million for housing to serve people with disabilities

The capital budget invests about $148.4 million in toxics cleanup, prevention and stormwater assistance to local governments.

Additional environmental investments would prevent wildfires and help the orca population. Forest hazard reduction would receive $14.2 million. The budget contains funding spread across a variety of projects that would aid orca recovery, including habitat restoration.

The $63 million invested in state parks would expand Washingtonians’ options for outdoor recreation. About $3 million of that funding would go to a new, full-service Nisqually State Park near Eatonville. About $35.4 million would fund park maintenance.

An additional $85 million would fund outdoor recreation projects though Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants.

The budget would invest about $1.1 billion in K-12 education, with about $1.04 billion dedicated to the School Construction Assistance Program. About $23 million would benefit distressed schools, and $20 million would fund small district modernization grants.

The state’s higher education system would receive $974 million.

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    Frockt ‘disappointed’ by Republicans’ refusal to vote for capital budget funding

Frockt ‘disappointed’ by Republicans’ refusal to vote for capital budget funding

April 8th, 2019|

Senate Republicans on Monday blocked funding for the 2019-21 Capital construction budget by voting against SHB 1101, which had received unanimous, bipartisan support in the House on Wednesday.

The bill failed because a 60 percent supermajority is required to approve a bond bill.

The move is reminiscent of the 2017 Legislative session, when then-majority Senate Republicans blocked funding for the 2017-19 Capital Budget. Senate Republicans ultimately failed to pass the budget at all that session, which marked the first time in recent history the Legislature failed to pass a construction budget.

“I am extremely disappointed,” said Sen. David Frockt, the Senate’s chief capital budget writer. “This is a good budget for every part of the state. These projects were negotiated in good faith in a bipartisan fashion. There is no good reason to withhold votes for the bond bill today.”

The capital budget invests in infrastructure projects throughout Washington. Below is a list of just a few of those projects and policy areas funded in the budget:

  • $1 billion for school construction statewide
  • $200 million for behavioral health projects statewide
  • $3.5 million: Housing in Airway Heights near Spokane
  • $2.5 million: Veterans housing in Yakima
  • $2 million: Sewer project in Wenatchee
  • $2 million: Business park in Ridgefield
  • $2 million: Food bank in Moses Lake

 For a complete list of projects, please click here.