In a repeat of 2013 and 2015, state lawmakers have pushed budget talks to the brink of a potential government shutdown. Gov. Jay Inslee has threatened to block any attempt to extend the June 30 deadline.
There are only five days until the Washington Legislature ends its second overtime session.
It’s been five years since the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark McCleary case that the state needed to fix its broken school-finance system.
And on Thursday, the governor hosted a “five corners” meeting with lawmakers to negotiate a final deal to meet that court mandate.
Here’s a roundup of all the McCleary action over the past week:
Over the weekend, a heavy sense of déjà vu — again — struck media outlets from across the state.
Meanwhile, the Tacoma News Tribune reminded readers that the Legislature has racked up a total of $67 million in court-ordered fines for failing to pass a complete school-funding plan. And yet, somehow, “that big-dollar figure hasn’t proven much of a motivator so far,” reporter Melissa Santos noted.
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Still, key negotiators told the public-radio Northwest News Network that everything’s A-OK: “We really want to wrap up our work here,” said Senate budget chair John Braun.
The Seattle Times reported Monday that education advocates remain worried that a slapdash McCleary deal won’t go far enough to help Washington’s students. And Education Lab joined public-radio station KNKX to discuss how school districts have struggled to plan their 2017-18 budgets thanks to the stalemate in Olympia.
The Legislature has taken its budget talks to this brink before, both in 2013 and 2015, when Inslee signed a budget on the June 30 deadline.
“It’s disappointing that we’re here all over again,” the governor’s budget director told The Associated Press.
On Tuesday, Republicans dismissed Inslee’s call for “all four corners of leadership” to return to the negotiating table.
Senate GOP leader Mark Shoesler, for example, suggested budget talks with House Democrats have been ongoing.
“We’ve been negotiating in person three, four days a week. Individual groups have been meeting,” Schoesler said on Spokane Public Radio. “Pretty easily accomplished.”
But Inslee questioned that timeline.
“They’re going to have to do the whole budget at the same time,” he told The Seattle Times after speaking Wednesday at a Road Map Project event in Renton.
“You can’t segregate any one particular part, because you have to find a way to finance these things,” Inslee added. “That’s why I’m encouraging they hurry up and get this done so people can consider it … I know there are frustrations.”
The governor declined to name any education-policy positions — from starting teacher pay to an overhaul of school-finance formulas — that would be a sticking point for him in agreeing to a final McCleary fix.
But Inslee sounded optimistic that lawmakers would go beyond doing the bare minimum to satisfy the Supreme Court. He noted they previously funded early childhood education programs and helped expand access to college.
“In previous budgets, the Legislature has made progress on those non-McCleary issues. They need to continue that,” Inslee said.
“We have to touch every rung of the educational ladder,” he added. “People have understood that on a bipartisan basis. I hope they continue to do that.”