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Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget adds $2 billion in spending

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(The Center Square) – Less than a month from the start of the next legislative session, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday afternoon released his 2024 supplemental budget proposal.

The governor’s supplemental budget would add $2 billion in spending to the $69.8 billion operating budget the Legislature passed during this year’s session.

“There are some numbers attached to it, but the numbers aren’t important,” Inslee said at a press conference announcing his supplemental budget. “What’s important are the lives. There’s a lot of lives that are going to be improved because of the proposals that we are making.”

Inslee’s proposal, which serves as an update to the state’s biennial budgets for 2023-25, prioritizes funding for housing the homeless, behavioral health services – including treatment for fentanyl addiction – and increasing the number of police officers. On Monday, Inslee proposed more than $900 million for action on climate change in his supplemental budget that would tap into higher-than-expected revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade carbon pricing program.

“We need more housing encampments removed and people getting housing,” Inslee stressed. “We need more young people getting mental health treatment. We need more fentanyl recovery systems to get people off of drugs. We need more officers on the street and this is providing all of those things. So I would characterize this budget as a continuation of the direction with an increased scope.”

HOMELESSNESS

“Obviously, one of our starkest challenges is homelessness and unhoused folks in our community,” Inslee said. “Last session, we took big steps forward – almost a billion dollars – moving forward to build more housing. And we have to build more housing. The projections are that we need a million more units in the next 20 years.”

Inslee proposed allocating $100 million from the capital budget to renew funding for the Rapid Capital Housing Fund, which the governor said has eliminated 30 dangerous homeless encampments along state highways so far, including getting more than 1,000 people into housing.

The program, established in 2021, is essentially out of money, Inslee said, adding that the new funding would pay for 1,200 housing units.

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES AND FENTANYL ADDICTION

“We made big steps in our behavioral health system,” Inslee said. “But we need more work. We know we need substantial – more work.”

Without providing dollar specifics at the press conference, Inslee said his budget calls for the purchase and operation of new beds for forensic services in state facilities and would also increase reimbursement rates for some community-based providers and diversion programs that help people avoid emergency rooms or jail.

Inslee proposed $64 million for combatting fentanyl addiction and $21 million to continue Washington’s 988 suicide and crisis lifeline.

The governor’s overall behavioral health package would add a total of $464 million to the current $1 billion in the 2023-25 budget.

MORE POLICE

“One of the ways [to deal with crime] is to have additional officers who are well trained on the street,” Inslee observed. “That’s why I am pleased why we have increased training opportunities with two new criminal justice training centers that can make sure people are trained – and this is really, really important in recruiting officers.”

Inslee’s supplemental budget includes funding for 80 new Washington State Patrol troopers, including a third trooper class to graduate more cadets.

“We’ve asked the Legislature to fund $10 million in grant programs – a grant program to other police departments to help them in some way to recruit and retain officers,” Inslee said. “And a $2.7 million grant program that supports the efforts of our drug task force as well.”

Republican legislative budget leaders were not impressed with Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget.

“This proposal is the last supplemental budget the governor will place before the Legislature, and I think it is a good time to look back on the governor’s legacy,” Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, ranking Republican on the Senate Ways & Means Committee, said in a news release. “During the decade he has been in office, Washington has seen declines in affordability, public safety and education. These results come in spite of the rapid growth in state spending – or because of it.”

On the House side, Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, leveled a similar criticism at the governor.

“And the governor’s proposal is also notable for what it’s missing,” he said in a news release. “Over the past decade, state spending has more than doubled. Despite serving three terms and authoring 12 operating budgets, the governor once again has not included any serious tax relief for families across the state.”

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate will each present their own budget plans during the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 8.

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