Republican budget leaders encouraged by ‘inclusive’ Senate operating-budget proposal

OLYMPIA… Key Senate Republicans say there is much to appreciate about the 2023-25 operating-budget proposed by the state Senate majority today, starting with a lack of new taxes and a much lower spending increase than in recent years – and how it responds to Republican concerns, especially regarding K-12 education.

 The $69.2 billion Senate proposal represents a $5.1 billion increase in spending over the budget that expires June 30. An estimated $3.7 billion would be left in reserve over the state’s four-year budget outlook, between the state’s rainy-day fund and other accounts. 

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, is Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and heads the operating-budget team. She offered this assessment:

“While it’s not truly bipartisan, this is clearly the most inclusive budget proposal we’ve seen in many years. The majority has no obligation to consider input from the minority, yet our Democratic counterparts allowed us to stay at the table and offer our suggestions. It’s admirable that they listened to the point of including many of the specifics we requested. A Republican budget would look different in several areas, but there are still a lot of items to like in here because they reflect the three main priorities for Senate Republicans this year – public safety, affordability and K-12 education – and also accommodate the top priorities of our committee leaders. That’s why we see funding for learning-loss grants to school districts, increased Medicaid reimbursements to providers, a response to the nursing shortage, and much more.

“The ability to be in the same room enabled a really notable level of openness and collaboration. Republicans advocated for controlling taxes and spending, considering what inflation is already doing to families across our state, and I’m glad to see this plan avoids piling new taxes on top of the ones already coming online this year. The 7.9-percent increase in spending is more than I would like but it’s also less than half of the average 19-percent growth in spending we’ve seen lately from the Democrats, even during the pandemic. The result of all this is a proposal that would be far better for our state as a whole than what the governor wanted for the next two years. I hope the House budget proposal is as responsible.” 

Sen. Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, is assistant Republican leader on the Ways and Means committee, and like Wilson was actively involved in all of the negotiations that produced the Senate proposal. He offered these comments:

“This was the first time in a decade that Republicans and Democrats have worked together to this degree all the way through the budget process, and I think this spirit of bipartisan cooperation is reflected in the result. Because our colleagues extended us this opportunity to be at the table, we were able to offer our input on many issues, and the final document does a good job of reflecting the priorities we share.

“I am especially pleased we were able to come up with a budget that fully funds our government and does not require a tax increase.

“I am sure everyone can find something in here they like, and something they don’t like, and that means we’re hitting the sweet spot. I hope the House recognizes the importance of the Senate’s balanced approach when the two chambers begin negotiating their final budget.”