With a partial government shutdown looming, key negotiators in the Washington Legislature report making progress on the education funding piece of a protracted budget debate.
For a week when state lawmakers — again — made no visible progress on a final McCleary fix, it sure was a busy one.
The clock ran out on the Washington Legislature’s first special session of the year, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee to call lawmakers immediately into a second overtime session.
State schools chief Chris Reykdal offered a compromise to fully fund public education as part of a sprawling, six-year plan he has to overhaul kindergarten through high school in Washington.
And, in lighter news, Joseph O’Sullivan, Capitol reporter for The Seattle Times, finally mounted a goat head on his office wall.
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Here’s a roundup of all the McCleary action over the past week:
On Friday, Senate Republicans scheduled a committee hearing on the last day of the special session.
No specific bill appeared on the committee notice, sparking some speculation that the GOP would make some last-minute move on a 2017-19 state budget. That possibility withered, however, when the hearing was canceled Monday morning.
But on Sunday, Rep. Kris Lytton, an Anacortes Democrat and one of eight lawmakers trying to hash out a bipartisan deal, told public-radio station KNKX that the Legislature isn’t at a complete standstill.
“Progress is being made with education on how do we fund McCleary,” she said.
Tuesday was the end of the Legislature’s first 30-day special session. And within 30 minutes, the second overtime session officially started.
In an afternoon news conference, Inslee indicated he’s willing to work with Senate Republicans to finally fix Washington’s broken school-finance system.
“The governor effectively took a proposed tax on capital gains — favored by himself and House Democrats — off the table,” reported The Seattle Times.
Some lawmakers don’t believe they’ll need the full 30 days to reach a compromise.
But as Spokane Public Radio noted, lawmakers face a hard deadline of June 30 to actually get some work done — or they risk the threat of a partial government shutdown.
Reykdal’s plan would preserve much of the existing school-finance structure, as House Democrats prefer, but also include a boost in resources for low-income, bilingual and gifted students that Republicans had hoped to support in a per-pupil model.
It also would cost about $4 billion per year, or about $3,500 more per student.
“It requires sacrifice from everybody,” Reykdal said in a news conference. “This will cost additional resources.”
The second special session ends June 20.