The GOP’s proposed 2017-19 budget would add $1.8 billion for K-12 schools, but Democrats objected to potential cuts to early education and other social services to pay for the spending increase.
With the Senate Republican budget out Tuesday, and the House Democrats’ proposal expected next week, lawmakers are getting down to the details when it comes to state spending for the next two years.
That must include a final resolution to the ongoing McCleary school-funding case, but it’s unclear whether there’s been any progress toward a compromise between the two parties.
And Olympia watchers continue to guess how many special sessions it might take for the Washington Legislature to reach one.
Here’s a roundup of the McCleary action over the past week:
During a Tuesday news conference, the Senate GOP laid out its $43 billion 2017-19 budget plan.
The good news for schools: The proposal adds $1.8 billion to K-12 education, and Republican leadership said a new statewide property tax would lower rates for 83 percent of taxpayers, according to The Seattle Times.
The reality: The proposal is pretty much dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled House, in part because a statewide tax would raise rates for some homeowners, especially those in the Seattle area. Democrats would rather tap new sources of state revenue, such as a possible capital-gains tax or carbon pricing, to raise more dollars for schools.
The Republicans steered clear of setting any new taxes and rely on higher revenue from existing taxes, transfers from other state accounts and cuts to some government programs to raise additional money for schools.
Early education, tuition waivers, cost-of-living raises for teachers and smaller class sizes are on the chopping block.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee quickly denounced the proposal as “a marginal education budget at best,” KNKX reported. And in a long list of criticisms, Inslee blamed the GOP for pitching a property-tax hike on people living in high-cost areas like Seattle and King County.
Republicans have argued a statewide property tax, which would replace most of what’s now raised through local school-district levies, would create a fairer and more reliable system for funding public schools.
Democrats, meanwhile, say the GOP plan “creates winners and losers among taxpayers,” according to The Associated Press.
Further opposition to the Senate’s proposal came from the state teachers union, which warned the plan would not satisfy the Supreme Court’s decision in 2012.
Even Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction, who previously offered cautious praise for the GOP’s education priorities, raised concerns that the Senate’s preferred budget will cut critical government services and relies too heavily on high revenue forecasts.
TVW, the C-SPAN of Washington state, aired a summary of the early debate over the Republican plan. That debate ran late into the night Thursday and ended in a 25-24 vote to advance the $43 billion proposal out of the Senate.
On Monday, House Democrats take their turn with the release of a rival budget plan. But first, some students plan to add their voice to the McCleary debate with a Sunday march on Olympia.
“This is a march OF the students, BY the students, FOR the students,” according to the event page.