The Washington State Legislature was unable to complete action on biennial operating and capital budgets within the constitutionally prescribed 90 day legislative window. Gov. Jay Inslee has called a special 30 day session that will begin on Wednesday, April 29th. Much behind the scenes negotiating will likely occur among top party budget writers, leaving regular legislators with little to do other than await some compromise on the operating budget numbers. Transportation and education spending (and how to pay for it) remain the largest sticking points in the operating budget. Lurking in occasional shadow and light is the question of carbon legislation which at one point early in the session offered a pathway to new revenue for the state. Odds remain long that a carbon mechanism will come out of this special session, but are very much higher as a citizen’s initiative in 2016. The caboose car in the legislative calendar is the capital budget which will almost certainly get no action until there is an agreement on the operating budget. However, look for the capital budget to move quickly when the logjam is broken. Currently, both House and Senate versions of the budget have funding to continue the state’s energy efficiency grant program for public buildings. The House budget also contains grant dollars for K-12 schools that is absent from the Senate counterpart. Senate capital budget language however does contain a proviso which directs OSPI to convene a stakeholder group to assess how to open up the school construction fund budget to accommodate energy efficiency projects. This has long been a priority of NEEC and could lead to a long term and stable source of funds for school projects.
The Oregon Legislature starts later and runs longer this year. Bills affecting energy efficiency are more scant than typical years, though a number of climate/carbon bills have been introduced. Prospects however for any of the climate bills to be successful are not particularly good. HB 3246 has been introduced and would provide jurisdictions the option of adopting a program that would exempt taxes on any additional property valuation from energy efficiency improvements in either residential or commercial buildings. Otherwise, NEEC doesn’t anticipate significant energy legislation from this year’s Oregon session.