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News / Northwest

New Washington budget boosts state spending by $2B

Gov. Jay Inslee signed his final spending plans – and likely final bills – on Friday.

Published: April 2, 2024, 8:30am

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed the final operating budget of his tenure, approving an extra $2 billion during the second half of the state’s two-year budget cycle for education, mental health services, housing and more.

Before acting, Inslee reflected on his three terms as governor citing passage of key progressive priorities like the capital gains tax and the Climate Commitment Act, along with policies and funding to build more housing and increase access to financial aid for college-bound students.

And he gave a shout out to the official state dinosaur, the Suciasaurus rex, and state sport, pickleball.

“We have done some great work. Let’s keep doing some great work with this budget,” Inslee said.

The fine print

Spending in the state’s budgets covers a gamut of subjects, from ferries to football. Here are five examples.

World Cup

Lawmakers set aside $21 million between the operating and capital budgets to pay for hosting six FIFA World Cup matches in Seattle in June 2026. There’s $20 million in the capital budget to fix up playing fields and $1 million for marketing around the event.

Police car chases

Amid a growing debate over how police should handle car chases, lawmakers have decided to spend a year studying them. The operating budget allots $400,000 for collecting and reviewing data related to police pursuits and compiling a report for the Legislature by next June.

Ferry cancellations

In the transportation budget, there’s $100,000 for the state’s ferry system to reimburse walk-on passengers left stranded when the last sailing of the day gets canceled.

Prison closure

Lawmakers set aside $298,000 to convene a task force to determine the future use of the now-closed Larch Corrections Center, located in Southwest Washington. The task force must include representation from state and local elected officials, public safety officials, tribes and more people affected. It will deliver a report to the Legislature and the governor by July 2025.

Combating extremism

The state Attorney General’s Office will receive $247,000 for a task force to devise a statewide approach to combating political extremism and mass violence through a public health prism. This achieves a similar objective of House Bill 1333 which incited much rancor in the 2023 session, and did not get considered this session.

Inslee signed the budget and more than a dozen other bills at the new University of Washington Center for Behavioral Health and Learning in Seattle, built in part with state funds.

The $2 billion in new spending is on top of the $69.8 billion operating budget that passed the Legislature last year. The added money approved this session will be spent through June 2025 when the state’s budget resets.

About half of that money is for “maintenance level” costs for government activities already underway. The other half is for new policy investments.

Inslee on Friday also signed a supplemental capital budget, which will pay for construction costs across the state. On Thursday, he put his signature on the supplemental transportation budget.

Here are some areas where large chunks of the additional dollars will go.


Education remains the biggest piece of spending in the budget with $333 million set aside specifically for public K-12 schools.

There’s $72 million for school staff salaries, with much likely going to pay boosts for paraeducators, or teacher aides. There are boosts of $29 million for special education and $43.6 million for maintenance, operations and supplies in public schools.

In the capital budget, lawmakers also set aside about $306 million for repairing, renovating and constructing schools.

Mental health

One of the largest pots of new funding is for mental health services. Lawmakers set aside almost $339 million on behavioral health programs, staffing and facilities.

That includes money for operating the new Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health facility, adding beds to Western State Hospital and Eastern State Hospital and supporting the University of Washington Behavioral Health Teaching Facility.

Housing and homelessness

Much of the funding for new housing construction is in the capital budget, which sets aside another $127 million for affordable housing projects. That’s on top of the $400 million lawmakers earmarked for this effort last year.

In the operating budget, there’s almost $82 million for housing and homelessness programs with most going toward grants for local governments to boost homelessness programs.

Opioids and public safety

Substance use disorder treatment and services will get more funding, thanks in part to legal settlements with companies involved in the opioid industry. About $51 million will pay for addiction treatment medication for incarcerated individuals, outreach and drug use prevention in K-12 schools, and distributing naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, to schools, libraries and colleges.

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Carbon cash

The state’s carbon pricing program is the source of $1.2 billion in spending, of which $249 million is in the operating budget, $324 million in the transportation plan and $688 million in the capital budget. Those dollars come from the auction of allowances to the state’s largest polluters.

A measure on the November ballot to repeal the Climate Commitment Act threatens the future availability of the funds. Language in the budget prevents most dollars from getting spent until January 2025, in case voters approve the initiative.

One large expenditure is going forward. It is $150 million, in the operating budget, to provide a $200 credit on residential electricity bills of low- and moderate-income families by Sept. 15, 2024. Critics of the climate law have cried foul, saying the checks will arrive as voters consider the November ballot initiative to end the cap-and-trade program.

Inslee cited the credit, along with weatherization and heat pumps, as examples of how the Climate Commitment Act is working to reduce pollution while helping lower energy costs for low income families.

“We’re going to fight climate change and we’re doing it in this budget,” Inslee said.

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.