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2023 Legislative Update: End of Session Report

Contract Lobbyist, Bellevue Chamber
End of Session Report

At 10:05 p.m. on April 23, the legislature adjourned the 2023 legislative session, Sine Die. The 2023 Washington State legislative session was a long session, which means it lasted for 105 days and included the business of writing the full 2023-25 biennial operating, transportation, and capital budgets.

In the final hours, the legislature passed the 2023-25 operating budget and moved a few final bills through the process. They also attempted to pass the conference committee bill relating to the Blake decision (SB 5536), but the House did not have the votes to get it off the floor, and it also wasn’t clear if there were the votes in the Senate either. For more information on this bill and the floor vote, see a piece from The Seattle Times here.

While the session adjourned on time for the sixth year in a row, in his Sine Die press conference Governor Inslee indicated that the work on finding an agreement to the Blake decision needed to be reached and passed before the temporary fix expires on July 1. This indicates the potential for a special session in the coming weeks.

This was the first time since 2020 that the legislature convened fully in-person. While there were some parts of session that resumed in an ‘old normal’ fashion, there was also a lot of ‘new normal’. The legislature maintained fairly strong COVID protocols, and there was also a continuation of the virtual option for people to sign in and testify before the legislative committees.

While there was some trepidation early on about whether a hybrid approach could work, it went very smoothly from the beginning with committees seamlessly switching between in-person and virtual testimony. This hybrid approach for testifying and legislator meetings helps maintain the ability of more people to engage in the legislative process throughout the state without needing to make the journey to Olympia.

A total of 474 bills passed the legislature during the 2023 session.

The average number of bills passed in a long session is about 450. Some of the main issue areas of focus this session included behavioral health, housing and homelessness, special education, climate change, and reproductive health and abortion rights.

Bills that passed the legislature now go on to the Governor for consideration. Bill signing schedules and the list of bills that have been signed can be found here.

As a reminder, any bill that hit the Governor’s desk within the last five days of session has 20 days (not counting Sundays) for him to take action. To date, the Governor has fully signed 154 bills into law, has vetoed one bill, and has partially vetoed three bills.

The end of session is also when we typically start hearing about legislators who are planning to retire or other related changes. Given 2023 isn’t an election year, there weren’t any retirement announcements. However, Rep. JT Wilcox (R) announced that he will be stepping down from his leadership role as the House Minority Leader. It was then announced on TVW that Rep. Drew Stokesbary (R) will be the new House Minority Leader. Rep. Joel Kretz (R) also announced he was stepping down from his leadership role – Deputy Leader – and that role will be filled by Rep. Mike Steele (R).


In addition to the work done to pass policy bills, this session also included the business of writing the 2023-25 operating, transportation, and capital budgets. In the March 20th spring economic & revenue forecast, the forecast of funds subject to the budget outlook for the current 2021-23 biennium was projected to increase by $194 million, but then is projected to decrease by $483 million for the 2023-25 biennium, and decrease by $541 million for the 2025- 27 biennium. This means state revenue is fairly flat for the current biennium, but then starts to tip into a budget shortfall for the next two ensuing biennia. This downward trend set the stage for a more modest budget than we’ve seen in recent sessions when there was a substantial influx of federal COVID relief dollars.

Operating Budget

For the 2023-2025 biennium, the operating budget spends $69.3 billion which includes $4.7 billion in new policy level spending. There are significant investments in human services, health care, housing, long term care and intellectual and developmental disabilities services and to respond to the climate crisis. There was also a big focus on stabilizing and increasing workforce in various sectors including increases in behavioral health provider rates, increases in state and school employee compensation increases, rates for childcare providers and funding for workforce development.

Some of the large areas of investment include:

  • K-12 Education: $2.2 billion
  • State Employee Compensation: $2.1 billion
  • Behavioral Health: $1.1 billion
  • Public Health & Health Care: $1 billion
  • Long-Term Care and Developmental Disabilities: $1.8 billion
  • Children, Youth & Families: $590 million
  • Homelessness & Housing: $519 million
  • Human Services & Poverty Reduction: $397 million
  • Natural Resources: $684 million
  • College & Workforce Development: $382 million
  • Public Safety, Legal Aid & Corrections: $253 million

The budget does not include any general tax increases, and it retains $3.034 billion in reserves over the 4-year outlook period.

Operating Budget Documents:

Capital Budget

The final 2023-25 capital budget authorizes $9.0 billion in total budgeted funds, of which $4.7 billion is debt limit bonds for the 2023-25 biennium. The remaining amounts are $947 million in federal funds, $328 million in Model Toxic Control Accounts, $717 million in Climate Commitment Accounts, $295 million in alternate financing authorizations, $275 million in State Common School Construction Account, and $1.8 billion in all other funds. Approximately $95 million in bond capacity is reserved for a supplemental capital budget.

Some of the key capital budget investments are in the areas of:

  • Behavioral Health: $884 million
  • Affordable Housing & Home Upgrades: $693.7 million
  • Other Human Services: $407 million
  • Education: $872 million
  • Higher Education: $1.5 billion
  • Natural Resources: $2.4 billion

Capital Budget Documents:

Transportation Budget

The Legislature passed a 2023-25 transportation budget, which includes $13.4 billion plan invests in traffic safety, expands the state patrol and ferry workforces, funds green transportation options, and continues projects in previous transportation budgets, notably last year’s Move Ahead Washington package (almost $17 billion) and the 2015 Connecting Washington package ($16 billion investment).

There are approximately $969.8 million worth of investments in green projects in the 2023-25 transportation budget from the recent Climate Commitment Act auctions. The budget included a strong emphasis on safety. With traffic fatalities at a 30-year high, a renewed emphasis on safety was a goal of the 2023 legislative session.

Safety investments in this budget include:

  • increasing safe routes to school
  • mapping sidewalk gaps
  • improving busy intersections
  • introducing grade separation on rural roads to prevent serious crashes from lane departures
  • directing the Traffic Safety Commission to study and respond to alarming safety trends

Transportation Budget Documents: