Washington's three budgets
Every two years, the Washington State Legislature passes three budgets; a transportation budget, a capital budget, and an operating budget. The transportation budget includes things like road paving projects, ferries, and trails. The capital budget is for new construction, so new buildings, sewage systems, or housing. The operating budget pays the employees of state agencies and all the programs that the state funds.
However, even in years like 2022 where the Legislature isn’t required to pass their biennial budgets, they often pass supplemental budgets that add to the existing ones. This allows our state to be nimble, rather than waiting another year or more to make changes.
While this might all seem complex, the simple fact is that we want our tax dollars to be spent advancing the goals and values we have for our state. This is why at YWCA we say that budgets are moral documents. Properly implemented, they reflect our values, by putting our money where our mouth is in supporting the things and people we care about.
This year, lawmakers have a real opportunity to write those values into our state budgets with the help of billions of dollars in unspent COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by Congress in 2021.
Laying the Foundation for Recovery
While there are many things we can, and will, spend this money on as a state, some investments are more crucial than others as they lay the foundation for everyone’s success. That's why YWCA, along with our housing advocacy partners, are pushing for $500 million of those unspent funds to be invested in building new affordable housing across Washington.
Housing is foundational to solving so many of our problems we face as a society. From homelessness to climate change, increasing affordable housing lays the groundwork to solving larger issues by lowering rents and decreasing household emissions. Affordable housing allows therapies for mental health and substance abuse to stick, since the patient isn’t constantly unaccounted for or under stress of not having a safe place to sleep.
Doris O'Neal, our Director of Gender-Based Violence Specialized Services, says that when asking women in our domestic violence programs what they need most after receiving our services, the overwhelming answer is "affordable housing."
Take Action for homes
Washington legislators are working right now on passing these supplemental budgets, which makes it the perfect time to contact your elected officials and tell them to support funding $500 million in new affordable housing in Washington. Together, let's lay the foundation for all Washingtonians to have safe, accessible, and affordable homes:
Eric Bronson is the Digital Advocacy and Engagement Manager at YWCA. He manages the Firesteel blog in addition to its social media streams and action initiatives. A graduate of Oberlin College, Eric focuses on the intersection of race and gender within the American political economy.
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