WA: Exchange funding closer in new budget proposals

OLYMPIA — Revised budget proposals from the House and Senate inch closer but remain far apart on funding for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

After the latest revenue forecast predicted over $400 million in new revenue over the next two years, budget writers in both chambers took the opportunity to update their initial budget proposals to reflect the newly available money. Senate Ways & Means Chair Andy Hill released his updated proposal last week. In his new proposal, funding for the Exchange actually cut $1.5 million from the Senate’s already slim proposal. It’s current proposal includes $83.7 million for the Exchange.

On Monday, June 1st, House Democrats released their own updated proposal. It notably reduced its new revenue ask by two-thirds, while moving closer to the Senate proposal in a few key areas. Specifically, the House trimmed approximately $10 million in Exchange funding from its initial proposal. The new total is just over $114 million.

Senator Hill’s Exchange reform bill, SB 6089, hasn’t moved since passing the Senate in April. However it could still be used as a bargaining chip as negotiators look to wrap up in the next two weeks. The bill would further limit the Exchange’s budget and ability to raise operating revenue.

The Exchange’s original budget released late last year ask totaled $147 million. Governor Inslee’s budget included $127 million for the Exchange.

The House Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing for its updated budget proposal this morning. It is expected to move it out of committee this afternoon.