The Washington state House and Senate have approved $143 million in additional state funding for the 2013-15 budget cycle. The investments address the increased need for firefighting and foster care services as well as the court-mandated need to fund compensation for in-home care workers and treatment services for people with mental illness.
The current budget cycle began on July 1, 2013, and ends June 30, 2015. The 2015 Supplemental Budget, or “second supplemental budget,” allows lawmakers to make adjustments to the originally-enacted spending plan based on changes in revenue or additional funding needs.
Specifically, this budget responds to the following needs that arose in the last several months:
- Wildfires: During the summer of 2014, Washington state saw an increase in the number and size of wildfires, draining existing resources for firefighting efforts. Additional funding is now provided for incurred costs associated with combating the fires and natural disasters, including the Oso landslide.
- Treatment for people with mental illness: In August, the State Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to detain people in need of mental health services in hospital emergency rooms — a practice that has occurred because there is a shortage of appropriate treatment facilities. Additional funding has been added to provide appropriate treatment for those in need of mental health services.
- In-home care worker compensation: In another court ruling, the state is required to compensate in-home care workers — who provide services for seniors and people with disabilities — for cuts to their pay that occurred between 2003 and 2007.
- Services for children and youth in foster care: Additional investments are included in the budget to serve 18- to 21-year-olds in extended foster care and to provide court-ordered, supervised visits between children in foster care and their families.
To meet these funding needs, lawmakers have invested $66 million from the state’s general fund and $77 million from the Budget Stabilization Account, or “Rainy Day Fund,” for fires and natural disasters. The budget now heads to the Governor’s desk
With the budget for the 2013-15 cycle wrapped up, lawmakers now turn their full attention to writing the budget for the 2015-17 budget cycle.