The release of the House and Senate supplemental operating budgets this week includes good news for counties from the perspective of natural resources and the environment.

For several years, counties have been working to educate the legislature on the vital work that county solid waste programs do for the residents of our state. These programs directly contribute to positive environmental outcomes in every community. Unfortunately, state funding support for these programs has been reduced by over 62% since 2013.

Both the House and Senate versions restore state support by adding $9 million for local government solid waste in the second year of the biennium. That addition nearly triples the amount of funding local governments would have otherwise received under the current budget.

But that’s not all the good news.

  • The Senate’s proposed supplemental operating budget includes funding for a stakeholder discussion on the Growth Management Act (GMA). Counties asked for this process to pursue opportunities to address the key findings and issues identified in the Ruckelshaus Center Report published last year. Hopefully, the funding will survive negotiations between the House and Senate and will remain in the final supplemental operating budget.
  • Instructions are also included in the Senate proposal to the Department of Ecology to convene a workgroup to consider the state’s trust water program and water banking. Counties are included as a mandatory participant in that effort. This will be an important discussion as the state considers legislation that will impact water transfers and how water banking is used in the future.
  • The Senate included funding to conduct a review of the Department of Natural Resources’ trust land inventory and a more in-depth analysis of the sustainable harvest calculation. This is an important issue for counties that are beneficiaries of state trust lands.

All in all, there is quite a bit to celebrate in the House and Senate budget proposals. Staff and members have worked very hard to get many of these items included. However, we didn’t do it alone. We needed the help of legislators.

Our champions for solid waste funding included Representative Beth Doglio, Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, Senator Christine Rolfes, and Senator David Frockt. Senator Dean Takko was the driving force behind the GMA proviso.

If you have a chance, please send these legislators a quick thank you for their help. We couldn’t have done it without them. Or better yet, take the time to reach out personally with a phone call.

They did something for all of us that’s worth writing about.  It’s also worth saying thanks.