OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate passed a $59.2 billion, two-year budget today to boost funding for state services and provide essential support for the state’s pandemic recovery efforts.

The 2021-23 operating budget includes an additional $7 billion in one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to bring relief to struggling households, strengthen the state’s safety net, and build a more resilient public health system.

“This is an ambitious budget that will touch every community across the state and includes strategic investments to lift up people who have been hit the hardest over the last year,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “We listened to the needs and concerns of people across this state over the last year, and our budget provides the tools we all need to recover and emerge from the pandemic with a stronger, more equitable state in the years ahead.”

A one-time use of $1 billion in federal money would help assist state COVID-19 vaccination efforts and support ongoing testing and tracing systems. It includes an additional $150 million over the next two years for the state’s public health system – the first significant new investment in decades.

The budget provides funding for a comprehensive set of police and corrections reforms to increase trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and provides greater crisis response tools to address behavioral health. Key investments will also support reentry for people leaving incarceration and help people struggling with substance use disorder.

Other highlights include a landmark expansion of state funding for high-quality childcare and early learning through the Fair Start for Kids Act, funds to implement the Working Families Tax Credit, funding to ensure our schools have the resources necessary to reopen safely, critical new spending for wildfire prevention and suppression, and the largest investment in state parks in decades.

“To put it simply: this budget puts people first,” said Sen. June Robinson (D-Everett), the Vice Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “It reflects our neighbors’ priorities and it demonstrates our commitment to meeting our communities’ needs. Through strategic, thoughtful investments in crucial services and supports, this budget puts us on a path toward a quick and equitable recovery – not just to return to full strength, but to continue building an even healthier and stronger Washington than before.”

The Senate proposal also strategically uses one-time funds to make significant down payments on the state’s pension liabilities while leaving healthy reserves to guard against a future fiscal emergency – $1 billion in state funds and $2.3 billion in federal funding.

The state House of Representatives is expected to consider its operating budget proposal on Saturday, and the two chambers will then work to reconcile differences and agree on a final two-year budget before the Legislature adjourns on April 25.

Highlights of the 2021-23 operating budget proposal include:

K-12 education

  • $1.7 billion in federal grants to assist school districts as they safely reopen and to help students with learning loss.
  • $89 million in combined state and federal funding for special education.
  • $33 million to increase counselors in high-poverty school districts.
  • $191 million to stabilize school districts that have seen decreases in enrollment, ensuring schools can be fully staffed when classes resume in the fall.

Higher education

  • $28 million for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
  • $3.6 million to complete the expansion of the Spokane medical school.
  • $42 million to support the University of Washington hospital system.

Public health

  • $1 billion in federal money for vaccination and other pandemic response.
  • $100 million in federal money to bolster the state’s public health workforce.
  • $150 million for foundational public health services.

Behavioral health

  • $170 million in funding for more beds in community-based settings, increased Medicaid reimbursement rates, and additional crisis response support.
  • $59 million in federal dollars for mental health and substance abuse grants.

Health care

  • $50 million to increase reimbursement rates for dentists, pediatricians and primary care physicians.
  • $100 million to make health care more affordable by reducing rates on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Long term care and developmental disabilities

  • $454 million in combined state and federal dollars to increase vendor rates for nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult family homes.
  • $30 million in state money to eliminate the waiting list for clients needing services from the state’s Developmental Disabilities Administration.
  • $50 million in flexible funds for the Dan Thompson Memorial Developmental Disabilities Community Trust Account.

Children, youth and families

  • $450 million in combined state and federal dollars to fully fund the Fair Start for Kids Act, which includes a major expansion of Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) slots and rate increases (500 new slots in 2022 and 400 new slots in 2023).

Housing and homelessness

  • $850 million in federal money to support affordable housing and reduce homelessness, including rental assistance, shelter capacity grants, and homeowner assistance.
  • $44 million in state dollars to address landlord-tenant relations by providing tenant protections and providing for legal representation in eviction cases.

Police accountability and corrections

  • $26 million to create a state Office of Internal Investigations to bring a neutral, objective perspective to the investigation of police brutality.
  • $12 million to implement police accountability reforms passed this session.
  • $38 million to expand the graduated reentry program that helps people leaving prison successfully transition back into the community.

Human services

  • $582 million to support businesses and workers across the state by providing unemployment insurance tax relief.
  • $300 million for additional Immigrant Relief Fund payments to individuals.
  • $268 million to fund the Working Families Tax Credit.
  • $200 million in federal money for expanded Paid Family Leave for individuals forced out of work during the pandemic.
  • 15% increase in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Natural resources

  • $125 million to fund firefighting resources, improve fire-susceptible forests, and reduce fire risk at the expanding juncture of urban areas and forests.
  • $24 million to fund the Climate Commitment Act, which would place an enforceable, declining limit on climate pollution from the largest-emitting sectors of its economy.
  • $20 million to ensure Washington State Parks are fully staffed and equipped by adding an additional 300 employees.
  • $10 million to fund the HEAL Act, which would reduce environmental health disparities by using principles of environmental justice.

View complete budget details here.