Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In two weeks and two days the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn. Before then, we must pass a budget to fund state operations, including K-12 education, for the next two years.
The majority parties in the House and the Senate have each offered their budget proposals. This week negotiations began. In this update I'll give you an overview of the two budgets, and discuss some of the other noteworthy bills making their way through the Legislature.
State government is already projected to collect an additional $3 billion in revenues in this two-year budget cycle.
Some in Olympia argue that's not enough money and we need more; others say that's plenty and we should live within our means.
The budget proposed by the majority party in the House spends $38.9 billion and includes $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes, including a new capital gains income tax. It also freezes tuition at state colleges and universities.
The Senate budget plan spends about $1 billion less, $37.8 billion, and does not include new taxes, although it does let 12 tax exemptions expire. It reduces college tuition by an average of 25 percent.
Both plans are almost the same on more funding for K-12 education: $1.4 billion more for the House; $1.3 billion more for the Senate. That would be the largest K-12 investment in state budget history.
I think the Senate approach is better because it lives within our means. Especially considering the heavy investment we need to make in K-12 education (to comply with the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling), we need to prove to taxpayers that we can be good stewards of their tax dollars.
Bills of interest
Three bills I've been working on this session have made their way through the House and Senate and should soon reach the governor's desk for his signature. They are:
- Giving the Department of Defense (DoD) data on local students from military families so the DoD can assess how deployments and training cycles affect student learning. This will allow DoD to target extra funding for special education, foreign language learning, and other important educational programs.
- Requiring the state of Washington to notify the military about child abuse and neglect allegations in families with active military status.
- Incorporating libraries and librarians into technology literacy education, since librarians play a crucial role in helping students achieve their educational goals.
That's all for this week. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions, comments and ideas. I am here to serve you.