The House Republican budget lead, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, released the following statement Friday regarding the passage of the House Democrats’ 2019-21 operating budget proposal:
“We entered the 2019 session with the largest budget surplus in recent history. Thanks to positive caseload trends and a strong revenue forecast, that surplus now stands at $2.8 billion. With additional common-sense savings and efficiencies, that surplus could grow to $4 to 5 billion. There is no need to consider additional taxes in this fiscal environment, so I’m disappointed the majority would seek to raise taxes by more than $4 billion.
“While I’m discouraged that several of our ideas were rejected, I am pleased the majority did accept a number of key budget amendments proposed by House Republicans, including:
• Increasing Medicaid fraud enforcement, which would save $240 million;
• Providing for more local drug and gang policing in response to the opioid epidemic;
• Raising payment rates for those providing care to seniors and individuals with disabilities;
• Funding programs to reduce veteran suicides;
• Providing a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers and public employees;
• Giving additional assistance to mostly small and rural-school districts uniquely affected by the McCleary legislation;
•· Increasing transportation funding for homeless youth and foster children so they can stay in their school district;
• Investing in hatchery production at state and tribal fisheries with an emphasis on Chinook salmon, the Orca’s preferred prey.
I hope that more of our ideas are considered so we can adjourn on time with a budget that funds all of our shared priorities without unnecessary tax increases. I am eager to meet with my fellow budget leaders in pursuit of that goal.”
The budget was approved on a party-line vote, and now advances to the Senate.