The governor has vetoed a couple of items in the new budget, one reversed a cut in emergency funding, which was suddenly needed because of the Oso mudslide.
But the other veto got both Democratic and Republican lawmakers upset.
Governor Jay Inslee vetoed $20 million dollars for K-12 school funding because it was carved out of the Life Sciences discovery fund.
Biotech companies lobbied hard to keep that fund intact.
The program began in 2005 when Governor Chris Gregoire and the Legislature authorized $350 million for a 10-year program to fund the Life Sciences Discovery Fund. Over the years, lawmakers have poached from the fund for other needs. Then, last session, the Legislature voted to phase it out early, saving $20 million.
Governor Jay Inslee balked, “Cutting off funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund and the Washington Global Health Fund ahead of schedule is short-sighted, in my view. It ignores the tremendous contributions the fund has made to advance important research and to build upon our innovative economy.”
For example, a $1.3 million grant helped develop a new surgical care program.
“(The grant) has reduced health care costs by tens of millions of dollars, saved lives and improved outcomes by reducing unnecessary surgeries and surgical complications,” said Inslee.
The program has funded grants for research into Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, and juvenile diabetes. So, the governor vetoed that program cut when he signed the supplemental budget Friday.
“I think it sets a very bad precedent,” said senate budget chair Andy Hill.
According to Hill, the governor bowed to pressure from a group of lawmakers and representatives of the medical and research community. By vetoing the $20 million item, Hill said the governor thumbed his nose at a very difficult, bi-partisan budget process.
“You know this is a budget that passed with flawed bipartisan support. It passed out of the Senate 48 to 1,” said Hill. “Those are unheard of numbers.”
Despite that broad support, the governor said lawmakers have failed in their number one priority.
“I’m very disappointed and frustrated by the Legislature’s supplemental budget to the effect that it does not make sufficient progress on the state’s paramount duty to fund K-12 schools,” said Inslee.
But Hill said, “The governor decides that he’s going to go against the constitution, he’s going to say we’re not doing enough, then turn around and veto a section that would dedicate the money to education. He took it out of the education legacy trust fund.”
Hill conceded the Life Sciences Discover Fund is a good program, “I’m a cancer survivor. These are tough decisions to make.”
But Hill argued the fund could not be considered a priority and was due to be phased out soon, anyway.
Twenty million dollars is a big chunk of the supplemental budget, but the Legislature has multi-billion-dollar decisions to make in the next few years about how to increase funding for basic education.