Washington’s Legislature convenes for the 2019 session in less than a week. Lawmakers will come together starting Monday for a 105-day, budget-writing session. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins joined Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to talk budget and the many other issues on the docket.
A lot has shifted in Olympia heading into the next legislative cycle, Jenkins stressed.
The Capitol welcomes 28 new legislators, and Democrats hold a 57-41 advantage in the House, as well as a 28-21 majority in the Senate. It’s also more diverse, as 41 percent of the 147 members are women.
“As lawmakers convene, the state economy is churning right along with state revenues for the next two-year biennium expected to be up $4 billion over the current biennium,” Jenkins said. “But Gov. Jay Inslee is already warning that demands for spending are outstripping the growth in revenues and that taxes will be needed. Finally, this is the first session of the post McCleary school funding lawsuit era.”
Jenkins added that the latter is an issue that isn’t going away. Education spending makes up more than 50 percent of the state budget. “There’s pressure on lawmakers this year to increase funding for special education,” he said. “Also, Inslee is proposing to rollback the recently imposed caps on local levies. That’s sure to generate a fight.”
Other issue that are likely to get attention include Tim Eyman’s initiative to return to $30 car tabs, an initiative to repeal and replace I-200 that effectively banned affirmative action more than 20 years ago, and separate pushes to raise the smoking age and limit magazine capacity for firearms.
As for wild-card potential this session, Jenkins said the state could see an activist session with Inslee’s potential bid for president in 2020 and Frank Chopp’s last year as House speaker, the longest anyone has ever served in the role.
Listen to the full conversation with Jenkins above.