The agency that monitors state employees' ethics remains alive.
Democratic House budget writers voted last month to cut off funding to the Executive Ethics Board, but the House agreed Friday evening to save the agency, which is intended to be a watchdog for the state’s executive branch.
The House planned to vote later Friday on its approximately $640 million in budget cuts, which would fall on public schools, health programs and other state services and eliminate about 700 state jobs.
Legislators sought to save their favorite spending items. At the urging of Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, the House added $2.4 million to its budget to restore 14 jobs slated for cuts at psychiatric hospitals, half at Western State Hospital.
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Rep. Mark Miloscia, a Federal Way Democrat, persuaded his colleagues to rethink putting the ethics board on the chopping block.
“The people of this state really want ethical government,” he said in an interview.
Killing the board would save less than $500,000, but lawmakers such as Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said the agency is unproductive and focused on minor offenses by state employees, such as surfing the Web on personal business while on state time.
Miloscia said he agrees, which is why his amendment would require the board to install performance measures and report back at the end of the year. Then legislators can decide whether reforms or more funding are needed.
Darneille agreed to the approach.
“By shining a light on this, we feel that there will be some additional improvements in that agency,” she said.
Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, said no board can make sure employees are acting ethically if officials throughout state government don’t police their own agencies.
“We need to get rid of this board,” he said.
The budget considered Fri- day would assume $860 million in new revenue, but the House hasn’t decided which taxes would be raised.
The Senate made changes Friday to its own plan for raising taxes.
Its $890 million plan still hinges on a temporary three-tenths-of-a-cent sales-tax increase. That’s worth about $313 million and includes a rebate for lower-income people.
It also would increase taxes on several kinds of service businesses for three years, raising about $170 million.
An additional $30 million would come from charging sales tax on bottled water, and some $86 million would come from an extra $1-per-pack cigarette tax.
But the updated version unveiled Friday would drop some previous ideas, including sales tax on the value of trade-in cars.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the measures Friday night, and it could be brought to the Senate floor as early as today.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.