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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's unfortunate but true – the governor and Legislature couldn't agree on a state budget before the scheduled end of session this Sunday, so we'll have to go into overtime, officially known as a “special session.”
Why special session?
As of now, there's disagreement – between Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democrats on one side, and Republicans on the other side – about whether or not to raise taxes.
Since state revenues are growing by nearly 9 percent this budget cycle, a $3 billion increase, Republicans say we have enough money, state government should live within its means, and a tax hike isn't necessary.
Democrats and Gov. Inslee say that the extra $3 billion isn't enough, that more is required to fund state services, and are proposing about $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes.
What needs to get done?
Legislators must pass a two-year state operating budget. Additionally, we need to approve transportation (for roads, highways and transit) and capital (state buildings and environmental projects) budgets.
What about K-12 education funding?
Funding for our public schools is a major part of the budget this year. To satisfy the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling, which found that the state is unconstitutionally failing to fully fund K-12 education, the legislative budgets – both Republican and Democratic – propose about an 18 percent increase over the last budget. That's the biggest boost to education funding in nearly 30 years.
Although the dollar amounts are roughly the same, the approaches to fully funding education are quite different. In a nutshell:
- The Senate Republicans propose shifting the responsibility for property tax levies from local school districts to the state, in response to the court's finding that it is the state's constitutional duty to provide all funding for basic education. This would be a revenue neutral shift statewide.
- The Senate Democrats propose a new capital gains tax.
- The House Democrats propose a new capital gains tax and various Business & Occupation tax hikes.
I'll elaborate further on these plans in future updates. I think the Senate Republican plan is best because it follows most closely the recommendations made by education task forces, and it provides the most stable source of funding. The capital gains tax is notoriously volatile; revenues can swing wildly from one year to the next.
You've probably heard that some local teachers' unions have voted for one-day strikes to protest the Legislature. The Washington Education Association (WEA), the state's largest teachers' union, has been running radio ads making false claims about the Senate education funding proposal. I debunk those claims in my most recent podcast, which you can listen to by clicking here.
That's all for this week. Let me know what you think about the budget, education, and any other issues important to you – you can email me at Chad.Magendanz@leg.wa.gov.
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