Proposed Budget Would Undermine Environmental Protection Efforts
Washington enjoys a national reputation for the health of our environment and the beauty of our mountains, rivers, and forests. It is part of what helps us continue to attract new businesses and qualified, highly educated workers to the state. But it also can promote a false sense of security when it comes to the health of things like our air and water.
Right now our state is struggling with things like water pollution (see Sightline’s excellent report on stormwater runoff) and air quality (Tacoma was recently given a “dirty air” designation by the EPA, which named it one of the 31 most polluted places in the country). These are just examples.
Despite the need for state investments in natural resources, the current budget has taken significant steps backward. The budget signed by the Governor last May cut one-sixth of state general fund expenditures on natural resources, including conservation, forest management, water quality, food safety, and recreation.1
The Governor’s budget proposals would make matters even worse, impairing the state’s ability to deliver services essential to the health of our state, like keeping our air and water clean, and making sure toxic spills get cleaned up. Because the natural resources budget is just over one percent of state general fund spending, it can often get lost in the budget shuffle. But these are necessary investments in the health of our people and environment and require a more balanced approach than the further cuts proposed by the Governor.
1. Total cuts to natural resources rise to 25% if cuts to state parks that were offset with new revenue sources are included. The natural resources budget includes the following agencies: Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, State Parks and Recreation Commission, Agriculture, State Conservation Commission, Puget Sound Partnership, Growth Management Hearings Office, Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, Environmental Hearings Office, and Columbia River Gorge Commission.