House and Senate budget leaders reconcile their differences; operating budget compromise lifts spending 24.3%.

On the last day of the regular session, lawmakers will vote on a compromise supplemental operating budget that takes biennial spending up nearly 25% higher than the previous biennium. The Washington Research Council reports (we quote liberally below), 

The supplemental operating budget conference report would increase 2021–23 appropriations from funds subject to the outlook (NGFO) by $5.071 billion. Revised 2021–23 NGFO appropriations would be $64.138 billion. This is an increase of 8.6% over the enacted 2021–23 biennial budget and an increase of 24.3% over 2019–21 spending. Appropriations in the conference report are $503.9 million higher than in the Senate-passed budget and $1.170 billion lower than in the House-passed budget.

The WRC notes a little progress in reserve levels.

The conference report would leave an unrestricted NGFO ending balance of $348 million in 2023–25. It would make just the constitutionally-required 1% transfer to the budget stabilization account (BSA, or the rainy day fund). The BSA ending balance would be $1.246 billion in 2023–25.

The proposal would transfer $1.1 billion in 2021–23 from the NGFO to the Washington rescue plan transition account (WRPTA), and the outlook assumes that another $500.0 million would be transferred to the WRPTA in 2023–25. (The Senate-passed budget would have transferred $2.0 billion over four years to the WRPTA; the House would have transferred nothing.) As I wrote earlier today, it would be better to keep reserves in the BSA.

From The Seattle Times:

The supplement budget adds billions to the two-year $59 billion state operating budgetapproved last year. Washington’s operating budget funds a host of government programs, from prisons, schools, parks and public lands, to foster care and mental health services.

Perhaps the biggest move was a one-time transfer of $2 billion outside the budget — along with a smaller, ongoing amount planned in the years to come — to fund a new 16-year transportation package. Lawmakers Wednesday announced a final deal on that package, as well.

The final supplemental budget deal spends $261 million on raises to state workers, which for most workers will amount to a 3.25% raise in the fiscal year that starts July 1, and $236 million to account for inflation for K-12 worker salaries, school supplies, materials and operating costs.

More in the story and on this legislative page.

Regarding taxes, the ST reports,

Even with tax dollars pouring in, Democrats have resisted calls from Republicans — who are in the minority in the House and Senate — for broad tax cuts like reductions in taxes on property or retail sales.

Since the legislative session begin in January, Democratic lawmakers talked up a brief holiday from the sales tax, and funding for free admission to state parks and the Washington State Fair. But they ditched those proposals, which they said were too logistically difficult to enact….

The new budget does provide $13 million in relief for small businesses from the Business & Occupation tax. That’s enough to provide cuts for roughly 125,000 small business owners, or about 70% of businesses in the state, according to Rolfes, the chief Senate Democratic budget writer.

Starting Jan. 1, businesses making less than $125,000 won’t have to pay the Business & Occupation tax, Rolfes said. For businesses making more than that, and up to $250,000 annually, the existing tax burden is cut in half, she said.

All that remains is the voting today.