OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A supplemental state budget that pays for the final piece of a long-running court case on basic education funding was signed into law Tuesday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The budget also allocates additional money for mental health, heath care and higher education, among other areas, and provides a one-time property tax cut next year.
The plan makes several tweaks in spending to the current $43.7 billion two-year state budget that was adopted last summer, bumping the current operating budget up to $44.6 billion, with much of the increased spending going toward education.
Lawmakers needed to speed up fully funding teacher salaries as they worked to satisfy a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling — known as the McCleary ruling — that found that K-12 school funding was inadequate. The salary component was expedited to be enacted later this year.
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“Our motivation has always been the kids,” Inslee told reporters after the bill signing. “We believe that by satisfying the McCleary decision we satisfied a higher purpose, which is our moral responsibility to our kids and our grandchildren. And I feel good about that.”
The state has been in contempt of court since 2014 for lack of progress on that ruling.
In November, the court said a plan passed by the Legislature last year — which included statewide property tax increase earmarked for education — satisfied its earlier ruling, but justices took issue with the fact that the salary component wasn’t fully funded until September 2019.
The court has retained jurisdiction in the case, and gave lawmakers this current legislative session to get the work done. Lawmakers adjourned March 8, and must present the court a report by April 9 detailing the state’s progress.
Inslee said that while the court case is likely to be done, there is more to do on education, including in areas like special education.
“We’re not finished, but this was a big achievement,” he said.
Also signed Tuesday by Inslee was the property tax cut that is meant to offset the increase homeowners have seen following an 81-cent per $1,000 of assessed value increase to the statewide property tax that lawmakers approved last year that raised the tax to $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Homeowners will see a one-time 30-cent cut to statewide property taxes in 2019, with the rate dropping from $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.40.
Inslee also signed a $414 supplemental capital budget that puts an additional $46 million toward K-12 construction, and puts about $65 million toward high education construction projects.
It also allocates additional money to create more community beds at the state’s two mental health hospitals. A supplemental transportation budget that includes money for a study on high speed rail was also signed Tuesday.