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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Homelessness, Other Crises Demand Emergency Funds Say Washington Democrats

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Colin Fogarty
/
Northwest News Network files

Washington lawmakers plan to tap the state’s rainy day fund to pay for last summer’s devastating wildfires. But legislative Democrats said several other crises also deserve immediate funding.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Hans Dunshee Monday unveiled a proposed update to the state’s two-year budget.

“We’re addressing a significant teacher shortage, a significant mental health crisis and a significant uptick in the number of homeless people and those are things that have to be addressed right now,” Dunshee said.

Dunshee’s proposed budget would draw down the state’s rainy day fund by nearly $500 million. That money would pay for fires and homelessness assistance as well as more K-12 classrooms. Democrats also proposed to close several tax exemptions to boost beginning teacher salaries.

Republicans have previously said significant new state spending should wait until next year when the new two-year budget is being written.

House Democrats’ budget proposal:

  • $190 million for 2015 fires
  • $167 million for low-income health care
  • $149 million for K-12 school construction
  • $99 million to recruit and retain teachers
  • $37.5 million to address homelessness

Proposed for elimination or limitation:

  • Real Estate Excise Tax exemption on foreclosure sales
  • Sales tax exemption on bottled water
  • Sale tax exemption for out-of-state shoppers
  • Preferential rate for resellers of prescription drugs
  • Preferential rate for international investment services
  • Preferential rate for travel agents and tour operators