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Welcome to the eighth week of the legislative session! As you will recall from last week, today is another cut-off. Bills (which would cost the state money) have to be voted out of the opposite house fiscal committees by 5:00 p.m., unless they have the coveted designation of NTIB (by now, you knew I was going to say that!).

Last week, the House and Senate released their respective supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets. On Monday, the House released their budgets. "This is not a year to sit on our hands and do nothing. We have some significant issues, some significant crisis and we intend to do something about them with this budget," said House lead budget writer Rep. Hans Dunshee at a press conference Monday. The supplemental budget spends $467 million, including $99 million to address the state's teacher shortage. The proposal would raise starting teacher salaries from $35,000 to $40,000 a year, and offer teachers a $650 yearly bonus for continuing professional certification. The budget also calls for tapping the state's emergency "rainy day fund" to pay for $190 million in fire suppression efforts during the devastating 2015 wildfire season, as well as nearly $38 million in homeless programs, and $47 million for mental health programs including Western State Hospital. The supplemental budget can be found here.

On Wednesday, the Senate released their budgets. "Not only does it make investments where we need it, but we also have policy and reforms to go along with those investments," said lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill at a briefing with reporters. The Senate supplemental operating budget spends $54 million on mental health, including salary increases and extra staffing at Western State Hospital. $6.6 million is included for Charter Schools from the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account, as well as $173 million for wildfire costs from last summer. Watch the media briefing by Majority Coalition Caucus and House Republican Leadership about the House budget. Senate budget documents can be found here


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Health Policy News You Can Use February 29 2016.pdf