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2021-2023 budget proposal

Gov. Inslee released his 2021-2023 budget proposal that focused on COVID-19 response and recovery, including significant funds to strengthen the public health system

The governor's budget proposal lays out a framework for rebuilding the state's economy and continues efforts to support households, students, workers and businesses impacted by the pandemic. Inslee makes significant investments in addressing racial and economic inequity, while protecting previous investments in education, childcare and early learning, climate action, behavioral health reform, combating homelessness and access to health care..

2020 supplemental budget highlights


Lawmakers voted unanimously to approve House Bill 2965, which provides $200 million from state reserves to help the state, local governments and federally recognized tribes respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The funds will be used to slow the outbreak, test for the virus and help with treatment for more severe cases of respiratory illness. The emergency legislation includes $25 million for unemployment insurance to financially help employees who are temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 outbreak.


The supplemental budget includes a significant investment to help bring vulnerable people inside, with a variety of services to move homeless individuals into stable housing. The budget invests over $230 million over four years for supportive housing, rent assistance, diversion services, transitional housing for homeless youth and creating new shelter capacity. This budget also includes a substantial investment to build and preserve affordable housing units, which will help reduce homelessness across the state.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1783, which created the Washington State Equity Office. The office will help ensure that we will welcome and include all Washingtonians in our workforce regardless of race, ethnicity, country of origin, immigration status, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and military status. The supplemental budget provides funding for the Department of Enterprise Services to create and offer a standardized diversity, equity and inclusion online curriculum for state agencies.

Investing in Washington’s Workforce

Inslee is committed to build an economy that works for businesses and workers alike. He has partnered with the business and labor communities on strategies to expand training and career-connected learning opportunities across the state. The supplemental budget advances this important work with $21.1 million in investments in workforce development. These include increased incumbent worker training for mid-career workers, targeted investment to build capacity in the aerospace sector, continued expansion of career-connected learning, new data reporting requirements to better inform future workforce investments and continued work to establish protections for domestic workers.

Early Learning

In recent years, Gov. Inslee and the Legislature significantly expanded access to early learning. The current two-year budget added nearly 1,200 enrollment slots to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, the state’s preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds whose family income falls below 110% of the federal poverty level. Since 2013, we’ve increased the number of ECEAP enrollment slots from fewer than 6,000 and by 2021, we will reach nearly 15,000 slots.

The supplemental budget designates 50 of the 600 new slots during the 2020–21 school year for children in foster care to access ECEAP no matter when they start during the . This will tremendously benefit the many 3- and 4-year-olds who become state dependents during the school year and for whom there are no slots.

The supplemental budget provides $2.2 million General Fund-State for targeted support services and more teachers to help children with different abilities thrive in preschool. While approximately 3,780 children with special needs are enrolled in ECEAP each year, the state has not provided additional resources until now. 

The supplemental budget also continues to boost access to child care for the state’s most vulnerable families. It expands subsidized child care to homeless families from four to 12 months. It also eliminates the co-pay and simplifies the rules to make it easier for teen parents to get subsidized child care. This additional funding will provide children with consistent, high-quality caregiving while their parents meet housing, education or employment goals. The supplemental budget also provides $32 million General Fund-State for a subsidy rate increase, taking the rates from the 55th percentile of market rate to the 65th percentile.

Child Welfare

The supplemental budget provides additional funding to help recruit and retain foster parents. While the cost of living has risen, we have not adjusted the rate we pay to foster parents since 2016. The budget increases the base foster care payment rate by $100 per child per month to licensed foster care parents.

To support children living with unlicensed kinship caregivers, the state will provide funding to shrink a backlog of 1,600 home studies. This will help these relatives become licensed foster parents and receive foster parent payment.  

Supporting Retired Teachers and Public Employees

The supplemental budget funded Engrossed House Bill 1390, which provides a benefits increase for retired teachers and public employees in the Teachers’ and Public Employees’ Retirement Systems Plan 1. This is a one-time, permanent adjustment of 3%, up to a maximum of $62.50 per month. 

Climate action

The supplemental budget provides significant funding to reduce climate emissions. Lawmakers approved the governor’s proposal to align Washington state emission targets with the latest scientific guidance by reducing global Washington state human-caused emissions by 45% from 1990 levels by 2030, and 95% by 2050. The budget includes funding for the Department of Ecology to adopt rules to strengthen and standardize the consideration of climate change risks, vulnerabilities and greenhouse gas emissions in environmental assessments for major energy facilities and infrastructure projects.

Washington will also join nine other states to increase the availability of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) sold to consumers across the states. And funding is included to install additional EV charging infrastructure at state facilities. This will support the planned state purchase of EVs over the next three years. 

Transportation/Initiative 976

Lawmakers largely followed plans the governor put forward for responding to Initiative 976, which voters approved in November. The initiative significantly cuts funding for state and local transportation projects and operations by lowering state car-tab fees, repealing Sound Transit car-tab taxes and eliminating a .3% sales tax on vehicle purchases and the authority for cities to charge car-tab fees.

The initiative is projected to reduce state transportation funding by about $454 million in the current biennium and by more $1.9 billion over six years. In addition, total revenue losses for local governments and Sound Transit is projected at more than $2.3 billion over six years.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the initiative is still pending. As the governor proposed, while that case is pending, the budget directs the Department of Licensing to continue collecting car tab fees. But the car tab revenue was be set aside in case refunds are required.

The transportation budget implements a few of the strategies the governor proposed to address the projected shortfall, such as using gas tax revenue to help pay for state ferry and Washington State Patrol operations. 

The budget also:

  • Provides funding for WSDOT to continue work on our obligation to improve fish passage barriers.
  • Continues to provide much needed transit service for our most vulnerable by keeping special needs transportation programs whole.
  • Prioritizes safety on our highways by continuing to support the next class of State Troopers and retains much needed preservation funding.

As legislative transportation budget leaders stated, this budget is designed to get the state through this biennium. But, given the passage of the initiative and the growing needs of our transportation infrastructure, the state will need a plan in the next biennium for important transportation investments.

Key Successes


Final 2019-21 biennial budget

The 2019–21 biennial budget makes significant investments in clean energy, behavioral health, orca recovery, education, statewide broadband and other priorities that help Washington's families and businesses thrive.

The 2019–21 operatingcapital and transportation budgets make significant investments in priorities outlined by Gov. Inslee at the start of the legislative session, including clean energy, behavioral health, orca recovery, education, statewide broadband, affordable housing and more. These investments help Washington's families and businesses thrive. 

2019-21 budget highlights

  • Clean energy: The budget includes funding for Inslee's proposals in clean electricity, buildings and transportation. This builds on efforts already underway across the economy to transition to 100% clean energy, construct ultra-efficient buildings, electrify the state’s transportation system and phase down super-pollutants in certain products.
  • Behavioral health: The legislature funded Inslee's detailed plan for transforming Washington’s behavioral health system by shifting to treatment in community-based facilities, expanding options for care, providing housing support and investing in behavioral health care workers. The legislature supported and funded these priorities. 
  • Southern Resident orcas: The legislature funded Inslee's proposal to will support the state's efforts to restore salmon, improve habitat, reduce vessel disturbance and reduce toxics in the water to save Southern Resident orcas.
  • Statewide broadband: Broadband access is essential for full participation in society and the modern economy. Inslee’s proposal, which was passed and funded by the legislature, includes a new Statewide Broadband Office and a separate capital funding to establish a competitive grant and loan program for broadband projects.
  • Education: Building on Inslee's budget proposal, the legislature invested heavily in teachers, special education and school counselors, nurses and social workers to support students. It supports local levy funding to enhance K-12 programs. It also fully funds Washington College Promise, guaranteeing financial aid for all eligible students and increases funding for Career Connect Washington to create pathways between high school and good paying jobs.
  • Homelessness: The legislature made investments that built on Inslee's strategy for combating homelessness aimed at building and preserving affordable housing units, providing housing assistance to vulnerable people and preventing homelessness.

The enacted 2018 supplemental operating budget meets the state’s final basic education obligations under the McCleary lawsuit, adds crucial funding for behavioral health services, provides property tax relief for homeowners and invests in strategies to fight the opioid epidemic. 

The 2018 supplemental budget includes:

  • $970 million to fully fund the state’s basic education obligations in the 2018–19 school year. This investment is expected to finally bring an end to the years-long McCleary lawsuit. Over the past four years, in response to the lawsuit, the state has added billions of dollars in new funding for public schools. K-12 spending will make up nearly 51 percent of total state General Fund spending — the highest level in more than 30 years.
  • $27 million to boost funding for special education.
  • Cuts property taxes in 2019 for homeowners and businesses.
  • Makes significant investments and reforms to the state’s behavioral health system, including about $157 million in new state funding to expand behavioral health services in communities, make vital improvements at the state’s psychiatric hospitals and funds a package of strategies the governor advanced to combat the state’s opioid crisis.
  • Includes $1.5 million to protect Southern Resident killer whales and support the governor’s efforts to develop a long-term orca recovery plan.
  • Provides funding to strengthen the state’s earthquake and tsunami preparedness, improve efforts to prevent oil spills and increase the state’s wildfire prevention and response capabilities.
  • The 2017-2019 operating budget fully funds schools for the first time in decades, and avoids damaging cuts to services and programs that help families and workers while putting significant new resources into reforming and strengthening Washington’s mental health system.
  • New department of Children, Youth and Families. The governor signed a bill to restructure how the state serves at-risk children and youth. After a yearlong transition period that began July 2017, the new agency will oversee several services now offered through the state Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Early Learning. These include all programs from the Children’s Administration in DSHS such as Child Protective Services, the Family Assessment Response program and adoption support, as well as all DEL services, including the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program for preschoolers and Working Connections Child Care.
  • Paid family leave. Washington became the fifth state in the U.S. to establish a paid family and medical leave program for workers. The law, signed by the governor was passed with strong bipartisan support and will be in place by 2020. It creates the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which will provide everyone in the workforce with up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave, and up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child or an ailing family member. That leave is capped at 16 weeks if the employee needs both types of time off in a one-year period.
Full detail on the final 2017-2019 enacted budgets can be found on the Office of Financial Management website.
  • Results Washington teams developed improvement plans for nearly 200 goals, measured results and collaborated with partners and among state agencies on solutions. 
  • Gov. Inslee launched monthly Results Review meetings to assess progress. 
  • Thousands of state employees learned Lean principles to improve their work. 
  • Lean improvement efforts in state agencies resulted in faster permits, shorter forms, quicker responses to public disclosure requests and millions of dollars in savings.
  • Lean savings. Through Results Washington, the state has effectively engaged its employees, partners and the public in building a healthier, better-educated and more prosperous Washington. Initial reports from Results Washington show the state has saved millions of dollars in 2014, is reducing future costs, and better tracking outcomes of current state spending.

Hold-steady budget which invests in education, human services and other critical shortfalls.

  • Gov. Inslee and lawmakers crafted a budget that put more than $1 billion in K-12 education and put a freeze on college tuition, while protecting — and in some cases enhancing — funding for programs that protect our most vulnerable citizens and ensure public safety. They also addressed critical shortfalls in a few areas, such as state parks.
  • The budget fully embraced Medicaid expansion as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. By doing that, the state should save more than $300 million over two years.  
  • The 2013–15 capital budget included:
    • $3.6 billion for new projects statewide and provides $2.8 billion for the continuation of projects underway.
    • Approximately $600 million into new construction for K-12 education and ~$500 million to complete construction projects underway.
    • $56 million in housing investments for farmworkers, veterans, people with chronic mental illness and people with developmental disabilities.
    • $40 million in technologies that save energy, reduce energy costs, cut harmful air emissions and boost energy independence for Washington.

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