Legislative Flavor for April 1st

Reconciliation is fast becoming the buzzword around Olympia’s Capitol Dome, now that the House and Senate are passing out of each chamber their respective operating, capital, and transportation budgets. They will have to reconcile the differences between the three sets of FY21-23 budgets and send a final budget to Governor Inslee.

Ironing out those differences takes time. Finding agreement on the total amount to be spent by itself takes time. Those differences can be disconcerting at first glance:

  • Operating Budget – $58.3 billion in the House versus $59.2 billion in the Senate
  • Capital Budget – $5.68 billion in the House versus $6.23 billion in the Senate
  • Transportation – $10.9 billion in the house versus $11.7 billion in the Senate.

After the dollar amount is settled, the next sticking point is funding new legislation. It is traditional for bills that have not received a vote by the full chamber to not be included in the draft budget, so the Senate budgets did not include funding for House bills and vice versa. This year, there are extra levels of complexity because some details are not yet available from the Treasury Department regarding federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

All this work is turned over to three small groups (usually four to six people) consisting of House and Senate budget committee chairs and ranking members of the three budgets. These negotiating teams are where WACD and CDs can point our influence. While WACD can focus on those “in the room”, districts can encourage their legislators to pass along to their colleagues the importance of funding district programs.

This is where I believe CDs have strength over other groups simultaneously lobbying for their own programs. It all comes down to Tip O’Neil’s famous line about “all politics is local.” Districts come from their local communities and speak to what is important in smaller places like Fall City, Bickleton, and Edwall. Districts work with the people on the ground as well as engage with volunteers, contractors, local partners, and of course Supervisors. All of these people connect with local elected officials. That is a special connection and it is why I am hopeful that Washington’s conservation districts could see strong results from this budget cycle.