Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned on time March 13. Session was a mixed bag – on the one hand we approved a responsible supplemental budget that prioritized education; on the other hand, we weren't able to get additional funds to classrooms and will have to redouble our efforts next year.
Changes on Education Committee
At the end of session my colleague, 31st District Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, decided to resign as ranking Republican on the House Education Committee. That means I'm now the committee's ranking Republican member. I'm grateful to Rep. Dahlquist for her hard work on, and dedication to, K-12 education, and I'm excited to take on this new opportunity.
K-12: Getting to full funding
My first education priority is fully funding basic education. In 2012 the state Supreme Court ruled in its McCleary decision that the state was failing in its constitutional duty to provide for the education of all children. The court gave the Legislature a 2018 deadline to increase funding, so we have no time to waste.
In last year's budget we took a big first step, upping K-12 funding by $1.6 billion – that was an 11.4 percent increase from the previous budget. This year's supplemental budget directed $64 million – 41 percent of the new revenues we budgeted this year – to K-12.
Unfortunately the Senate didn't pass a House-approved plan to raise up to $700 million in lottery-backed bonds for classroom construction. Next year we'll have a lot of work to do to stay on track for full funding by 2018. One of the approaches I'd like to explore is reforming our school levy and teacher compensation systems so we're adequately funding schools and teacher salaries in the most cost-effective way possible.
Budget: What did we spend and where did it go?
The state budgeting process may not be the most exciting topic in the world, but it is important because it sets our priorities for where your tax dollars go – and in a larger sense, it reflects our values as a state.
This year, for example, we spent almost two-thirds of new money on K-12 and higher education. That shows our commitment to improving education across the board.
Without getting too bogged down in the details, here are some quick takeaways for you to know about this year's “supplemental” operating budget:
Q: Why is it called a “supplemental” budget?
A: Because we made only minor changes to last year's budget. We pass the big, two-year budgets every other year.
Q: How much did you spend?
A: The state took in an extra $155 million in tax revenues since last year, thanks to the slowly recovering economy.
Q: Did you raise taxes?
A: Nope. There was an effort to end some tax exemptions, which would have resulted in a nearly $200 million tax increase, but that didn't happen. The money in this supplemental operating budget was from existing revenues.
Q: Where'd the money go?
A: As the handy chart on your right shows, 41% ($64 million) went to K-12 education; 23% ($35 million) went to higher education – that includes a freeze on tuition increases; 17% ($26 million) went to long-term care, mental health and care for people with developmental disabilities; the rest, 19% ($30 million) went to criminal justice and corrections, and other general government activities.
Watch my video update
This will be my last video update for a while – it includes my plans for the interim and how you can get in touch with me. Please click below to watch:
427 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7876 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000