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Governor Inslee signs $59 billion, two-year budget for Washington

GOV. INSLEE (D), Earlier picture from 2020

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed a $59 billion, two-year state operating budget that he said would help provide relief and recovery from the widespread effects of the pandemic.

The Democrat also signed an $11.8 billion transportation budget and a $6.3 billion state construction budget.

“The final budget funds most of the relief, recovery and resilience priorities that I put forward in December,” Inslee said, noting that it makes vital investments in areas like public health, homelessness, climate change, access to broadband and child care.

Inslee said it was a good thing that lawmakers previously resisted widespread calls to slash state spending for services because the budget situation improved during the year.

Lawmakers used $10.6 billion in federal virus relief funding In the budget that ends in mid-2023. The amount is separate from the $59 billion in state spending.

The largest chunk of federal stimulus in the budget is about $1.7 billion for school reopenings and funds for schools to address learning loss by students over the past year. Another $1.1 billion will be allocated for vaccine deployment, recruitment of public health workers and other efforts related to the pandemic.

Republicans said there were things they liked in the budget — including the funding of a tax credit for low-income workers and families — but they opposed its new taxes, including a capital gains tax that was signed into law by Inslee earlier this month.

“If the majority Democrats had followed the Republican lead more closely, this budget would spend several billion dollars less, wouldn’t touch the rainy-day fund, and wouldn’t include any new or higher taxes,” said state Sen. Lynda Wilson, a Republican from Vancouver and GOP leader of the Ways and Means Committee.

The 7% capital gains tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other high-end assets in excess of $250,000 is set to start in January. It’s expected to bring in about $415 million in 2023, though it is certain to face an immediate court challenge by opponents, who argue it’s a tax on income that violates the state constitution.

The state construction budget includes money to build 33 new schools and to add buildings to community college campuses and behavioral health facilities around the state, Inslee said.

The transportation budget will add jobs in highway construction and provide funds to remove fish passage barriers. Inslee said future budgets must fund the replacement of 13 state ferries over the next 20 years.

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