The House and Senate passed two separate state operating budget proposals last week.

HB 1109, as passed by the House, calls for $52.8 billion in spending with about $2 billion in new taxes to pay for it, primarily by an income tax on capital gains earnings. The Senate replaced HB 1109 with its own version that would spend about $52.2 billion but does not call for a capital gains income tax.

A separate bill, SB 5961, to impose an 8.9 percent tax on capital gains income is scheduled for a hearing April 8. It would use revenues gained from the tax to reduce property taxes for some seniors and provide relief for small businesses.

Also last week, the House unanimously passed HB 1102, the 2019-21 Capital Construction Budget, along with HB 1101 to authorize construction bonds.

The Senate passed HB 1160, a nearly $10 billion transportation spending plan for 2019-21 by 47-0 vote. The bill passed the House by a 90-5 vote March 29.

District 10 legislators are Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor; and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. District 39 legislators are Sen. Keith Wagner, R-Sedro-Woolley; Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls; and Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan.

Here’s a summary of bills seeing action and how these legislators voted.

House Bill 1109, House version:

2019-2021 biennium operating appropriations. Passed the House on March 29 by a vote of 56-38, four members excused. Paul voted yes; Smith, Eslick and Sutherland voted no.

This is the House version of the operating budget for the 2019-21 biennium. It calls for $52.8 billion in spending, which is some $2 billion over the $50.6 billion in revenues projected by the latest state economic forecast.

House Democrats propose to pay for this plan by imposing a new capital gains income tax and raising other taxes, including the business and occupation tax rate on service businesses, and higher taxes on residential real estate transactions. HB 2156, to impose a capital gains income tax on “extraordinary profits” from high value assets was scheduled for approval by the House Finance Committee Friday, but no action was taken.

HB 1109 was sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The Committee replaced the bill with a striking amendment and passed the bill to the floor for action by the full Senate.

House Bill 1109, Senate version:

2019-2021 biennium operating appropriations. Passed the Senate on April 4 by a vote of 31-17, one member excused. Bailey and Wagner voted no.

The Senate replaced the bill as passed by the House with its own version of the 2019-21 operating budget. The Senate version calls for $52.2 billion in spending for the next two-year budget cycle. Like the House version, the Senate plan calls for additional taxes to pay for it, but not for a capital gains income tax.

Senate Democrats, however, are proposing a separate capital gains income tax bill, SB 5961, which is scheduled for a hearing April 8.

Overall, the Senate budget proposal is the smallest of the plans considered by the legislature. It would spend about $750 million less than the House plan, and $2.5 billion less than the plan proposed by Governor Inslee last December. The bill now goes back to the House for approval or rejection of the Senate amendments to the measure.

Ultimately, legislative leaders will likely negotiate a final plan that could be passed by both chambers and approved by the Governor. If they don’t reach agreement in the remaining three weeks of this session, the Governor would likely call for a special session.

House Bill 1257:

Concerns energy efficiency. Passed the House on March 29 by a vote of 55-37, six members excused. Paul voted yes; Smith, Eslick and Sutherland voted no.

This bill would impose a number of stricter energy performance standards for commercial buildings by Nov. 1, 2020. Among the requirements are establishment of a State Energy Performance Standard that maximizes greenhouse gas reductions and rules for electric vehicle infrastructure that require electric vehicle charging capability at all new buildings providing on-site parking.

Building owners would be subject to an administrative penalty for failing to submit documentation demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the standard. The penalty would not exceed $5,000 plus an amount based on the duration of any continuing violation.

The bill would also mandate a new Natural Gas Conservation Standard that establishes a societal cost of greenhouse gas emissions for purposes of this standard. The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.

Senate Bill 5889:

Insurance communications confidentiality. Passed the House on April 4 by a vote of 55-39, four members excused. Paul voted yes; Smith, Eslick and Sutherland voted no.

The Senate last month on a 27-19 vote passed this bill, which deals with the confidentiality of insurance communications sent to patients.

It would direct the Insurance Commissioner to develop a form for persons who are covered as dependents on an enrollee's health benefit plan to indicate where communications, such as bills and records of procedures, should be sent.

It would require health carriers to direct all communications containing information about a person, including personal health information and sensitive health care services, directly to the person receiving the care.

Under the bill, health carriers would be prohibited from requiring that dependents obtain the authorization of the primary subscriber before receiving health care services.

The bill would further prohibit health carriers from requiring a policyholder to pay for charges if the services were not authorized by the policyholder, and the person receiving the services instructed the health carrier to send information about the services to an address other than that of the policyholder.

WashingtonVotes.org, a project of the Washington Policy Center, provides a free periodic roll call service as long as the legislature is in session. Watch for weekly reports from WashingtonVotes.org on this page or by visiting washingtonvotes.org and Twitter, #waleg. 

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