March 26, 2019 STATE BUDGET PROCESS MAY ADJUST FUNDING FOR COLUMBIA BASIN PROJECT
By: Mike Schwisow | Government Relations Director, CBDL
The middle of March marks the half way point for the 2019 legislative session with both the House and Senate spending long days on the Floor voting on bills originating in their respective bodies. The House of Origin cutoff significantly narrows the focus of legislative action with the House limited to considering Senate bills that have passed the Senate and the Senate doing the same with bills originating in the House. Just before the cutoff, Representatives had introduced 1427 bills with 319 of those being passed. Senators had introduced 1300, while passing 281.
The House of Origin cutoff also brings the Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets into sharper focus. The budget writing committees in each body held hearings on the Governor’s budget proposals early in the session. They also have been hearing bills rereferred to the Fiscal committees by the Policy committees when those bills have provisions that direct expenditures. In the background, fiscal committee chairs and staff are working hard to develop the House and Senate responses to the Governor’s initial proposals.
The budgeting process kicks into high gear when the House and Senate fiscal committees each release their respective versions of the Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets. This marks the start of the finish of the legislative session as budgets are always the last business that is done before adjournment. Hearings will be held on the proposed budgets and, this session, the House will be first to pass the bill across the Floor to begin the substantive behind the scenes negotiations that lead to a final product.
The League has been focused on the Department of Ecology (DOE) Office of Columbia River (OCR) Capital Budget proposal which provides funding for the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP). Last fall the Department of Ecology sent a request for a $40 million to the Governor’s Office of Financial Management. The Governor sent his proposed budgets to the Legislature in mid-December reducing the agency request to $34.4 million. This wasn’t too surprising as the Capital Budget bottom line is a function of the bonded debt limitation and the Governor had previously identified priorities to fund Orca recovery and mental health facilities.
Although the bottom line for the DOE OCR Capital Budget proposal was reduced by the Governor, the agency support for OGWRP remained a priority. The revised agency allocation of funds remains at $10 million even though other project allocations were adjusted. The work ahead is to see that the funding remains through the end of the negotiations.