Happy 4th of July! Welcome to week 25 of the 2015 Legislative Session. Just a brief update today - with more to come after session ends (which unfortunately has not yet happened).
The good news is that the operating and capital budgets were both passed and signed by the Governor before midnight June 30. In addition to not having to shut down government, the operating budget turned out quite well for children and families. We will send a final budget comparison over the next week but for now, here are some of the highlights:
- 43.1 new FTEs for the Children's Administration for Child Protective Services investigations, continued implementation of the Family Assessment Response, and Child and Family Services (not the 107 the House had included initially but better than the 30 that had been included in the Senate budget)
- $75,000 for the One Family One Team court improvement pilot planning process
- $565,000 for the Parents for Parents Program (at the Office of the Public Defense)
- $1.015 million for a second foster youth/education demonstration site
- $819,000 (General Fund State); 1.192 million (total) for the 5th and final group of foster youth eligible for Extended Foster Youth - youth with a medical condition
- $3.873 million (General Fund State); $5.097 million (total) for a 6 percent rate increase for Behavioral Rehabilitative Services
- $1.25 million for implementation of Performance Based Contracting
- $867,000 for the newly established Office of Homeless Youth Programs
- $30.623 million for a 9 percent partial restoration of the TANF grant (previously cut by 15 percent in 2011)
- $9.584 million to restore the State Food Assistance Program to 100 percent (previously reduced to 75 percent)
- $791,000 for services for pregnant and parenting women participating in the Parent Child Assistance Program
- $21.688 million for Early Start
- $2 million (additional funds) for Home Visiting
- $4 million for the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program (Birth - Three)
- $300,000 for Reach Out and Read
- $24.250 million for Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (pre-k) expansion by 1600 slots
- $688,000 (General Fund State); $1.422 million (total) for developmental and autism screens
Additionally, while there are still LEAN cuts ($25 million over the 15-17 biennium) identified across state government, the $15 million LEAN cut specific to DSHS was not included.
So, what's the holdup in terms of adjourning? There is a bill, HB 2266 that would suspend implementation of I-1351, the class size initiative passed by voters in November. To amend an initiative within the first two years of passage, a 2/3 vote by the House and Senate is required. While the House passed the bill, the Senate, at 6:00am on July 1, did not. Therefore, an approximately $2 billion hole was created in the budget - a hole that, without action by the Legislature with respect to I-1351, will have to be filled. Yikes! The hope is that they will reach an agreement soon and truly wrap up for 2015. Stay tuned!
A final update will be sent when the Legislature adjourns. If there is news to report next week a short update will also be provided. In the meantime, we are breathing a sigh of relief that the budget is passed and includes many positives for children and families.
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Public Policy Director