OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a supplemental budget Wednesday that would give the state Department of Fish and Wildlife $955,000 to continue responding to complaints about problem wildlife.
The spending plan calls for adjusting the two-year $52 billion operating budget that legislators passed last year. The governor's budget would not raise taxes, and he was noncommittal about a proposal by State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to tax insurance policies to raise $63 million to fight and prevent wildfires.
"I haven't looked at the commissioner's proposal in-depth, so I wouldn't call myself a supporter or opponent of it at the moment," he said.
Franz proposed a $5 per policy tax on auto, home and other property and casualty insurance.
Fish and Wildlife has asked for additional funding to sustain its response to bears, cougars, deer, elk, wolves and other troublesome wildlife. The department said it would have to cut back on its response without more money.
Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind told Inslee in a letter recently that supporting the request would help the department manage wolves. It was a response to a letter from Inslee, who said he was concerned the department was shooting too many wolves to stop attacks on cattle in northeast Washington.
Inslee's budget proposal also includes $176,000 for the state share to spray about 1,300 acres in Snohomish County for Asian and Hokkaido gypsy moths, pests that defoliate a wide variety to trees and shrubs. The USDA is expected to contribute $518,000.
The budget proposal was modest compared to previous spending plans proposed by Inslee, who will seek a third term as governor next year.
Even without raising taxes, the state anticipates revenue will grow by 9.9% during the current fiscal year and 4.1% next year. Increased tax collections reflect a healthy overall economy.
Centralia Sen. John Braun, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement the governor missed a chance to cut taxes.
"It’s good that the governor didn’t propose new taxes, for a change, but he also wants nearly a billion dollars in additional spending at a time when there are already concerns about the sustainability of the current budget," Braun said.
In the biggest spending proposal, Inslee advocated taking $146 million from reserve funds to reduce the number of homeless people living outdoors.
Inslee said the homeless stood out in a state enjoying prosperity. In highlighting recent state accomplishments, he made a pitch for Washington State University's new apple variety.
"I highly recommend to everyone in the world to try the Cosmic Crisp," he said.
Democrats control the House and Senate. The 60-day session starts Jan. 14.