House Democrats unveil their proposed 2017-19 state budget, setting the stage for a McCleary debate that could last well into summer.
That means House and Senate budget writers will be working hard to find common ground in their tax-and-spending plans to finally resolve the landmark McCleary school-funding case.
But with the release of the Democrat-controlled House budget proposal this week, it’s clear the two sides remain far apart.
Here’s a roundup of the McCleary action over the past week:
On Sunday, dozens of students pulled out their umbrellas as they marched under rainy skies in Olympia to demand lawmakers fully fund public schools.
With picket signs reading “Dollars = Scholars” and “Legislators: Do your job!” the students aimed to give themselves a voice, as the people most affected by the Legislature’s failure to pay for an equitable public-school system.
“We shouldn’t have to be advocates for education, but here we are,” Olympia High School student Rachel Hodes told The Olympian.
Their activism was followed Monday by House Democrats unveiling their proposed $44.6 billion operating budget for 2017-19.
The proposal includes $3 billion in new taxes on the wealthy and businesses, including a 7 percent tax on capital-gains earnings. Total spending on public education would top $7 billion over four years, with increased funding for early-learning programs and higher teacher salaries.
House Democrats rejected the Senate GOP’s proposal to shift the burden of local school levies to a new statewide property tax. The GOP’s proposal would lower tax rates for a majority of taxpayers but also lead to tax increases in high-cost areas, like Seattle and other parts of the Puget Sound.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, praised the House budget.
But Republicans almost immediately predicted budget debates would spill into a special session, especially after Democratic leaders said they won’t pass their tax package until both sides reach agreement on a final budget.
“You can have no real negotiations until they show everything they want to do is more than just a spending list,” Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, told The Associated Press.
A hearing on the Democratic proposal is expected Friday on the House floor.
On Tuesday, the Washington Research Council released a comparison of the competing House and Senate budget proposals. And the council earlier in the week featured the “Little Legislation That Could,” a House bill nearing passage in the Senate to offer school districts some relief in building new schools.
Also Tuesday, Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction, weighed in on the budget debate and urged lawmakers to think of the process as “much more than solving a court case.”
The News Tribune, meanwhile, highlighted a notably missing piece in both the House and Senate’s budget proposals: “a tax on carbon emissions championed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.”