State budget battle on the horizon
This issue’s Olympia update will focus on upcoming budget negotiations as the Senate prepares (at the time of this writing) to release its budget proposal. To check the progress of policy bills the WSMA is tracking, visit the Legislative Action Center. More on WSMA’s budget priorities at the jump.
With the state legislature on the hook for resolving education funding as a result of McCleary, the debate to pass a 2017-19 biennial budget looks to be one of the most contentious in years (even considering the difficult budget battles of the last few sessions). If the Senate budget proposal is released this week, expect to see the House follow up with its proposal soon after. The WSMA will provide analysis of both chambers’ proposals in upcoming communications. Top-line budget priorities we will be looking for include:
Raising the Medicaid pediatric reimbursement rate ($7 million).
Buildouts to the state’s prescription monitoring program ($800,000-$1 million).
UW Telepain provider clinical consults ($700,000).
Mental health professional student loan repayment ($9.5 million).
Preserving gains in previous years to graduate medical education/residency funding.
Tobacco 21: Supporting Gov. Inslee’s ask of funds to address loss of revenue to the state ($16 million).
Supporting funding of Foundational Public Health Services.
1.5-2.5 percent increase in the business and occupations (B&O) tax affecting physician practices.
Other health care budget priorities include funds for mental health (Western State Hospital, Children’s Mental Health Workgroup), funds for the implementation of health-improvement projects passed by the legislature in 2016 (maternal mortality review panel, immunization portal), funds for Healthier Washington and more.
Once both chambers’ proposals are released, legislators then negotiate in the shadow of Gov. Inslee’s budget priorities, outlined in December. The goal for lawmakers is a final budget agreed upon by both parties and the governor by the scheduled end of session on April 23. If more time is needed, the governor can call as many “special” 30-day sessions as necessary, provided a final budget is passed and signed by the governor no later than June 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
The WSMA will be there at every stage of the budget-making process, providing strong advocacy on behalf of physicians and patients. We will fight to protect ground gained over the past few years and work hard to ensure funding necessary for pressing issues facing the practice of medicine. Stay tuned for more information on the budget negotiations—and potential calls to action—or visit WSMA’s Legislative Action Center for more in-depth analysis and breaking news.
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