Representative Timm Ormsby, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Paul Harris, member of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, discussed the state of the state budget amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases at the 2021 Northwestern Interior State Health Policy Conference earlier this month.
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“I feel more vulnerable now in terms of my constituents and their health, and the broader implications statewide. [The Delta variant] is going to have a huge impact, ”Ormsby said.
Ormsby said the impact of increasing the Delta variant should not be underestimated, but the total impact on the budget remains uncertain.
“I didn’t ask the staff about the specific status of our reserves because I think it doesn’t matter at this point as we don’t know what the need will be… is going to be. And I don’t think we’ll know that until we’re on the other side of this particular crisis, waiting for the other shoe to fall on what happens next. And I think we’re just in the difficult and unenviable position of making real-time decisions about information we don’t yet have that might have implications in the future for things we can’t predict. .
While many state legislators to oppose Governor Jay Inslee emergency orders, which have now been in effect for more than 500 days, Ormsby said he believes the state is more tense now than it was at the peak of cases in December and January 2021. He stressed that he didn’t believe the emergency was over.
Ormsby also commented on the $ 1.2 billion lawmakers have deposited in an inappropriate account the Department of Health can dip into in the event of a crisis, which he says may not be enough. Ormsby says that due to the potential return of funds to the federal government, the state budget is in limbo.
“It’s not as uncertain as it was last year this time around when we didn’t have a vaccine, but the fact that we had to have the [crisis standards of care] being inserted in my region gives me a big break from what our health system will look like.
Harris offered an optimistic perspective on the state of the state budget, saying:
“We always generate good income in our state, we are very lucky and very lucky. I think [we have] about three billion dollars more than expected. I think we still have about $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion in federal stimulus money that we still haven’t spent, but probably a lot of it is set aside. We are therefore not in a bad position at all… our income continues to increase… ”