Compromise budget details released, vote expected late Monday

By | June 29, 2015 | Comments

The compromise budget proposal reached by leaders of the House and Senate spends $38.2 billion over the next two years, reduces K-3 class sizes, gives teachers a total 4.8 percent pay raise through 2017, slashes tuition by 20 percent at four-year regional universities and by 15 percent at the University of Washington and Washington State University.

An outline of the agreement was announced on Saturday afternoon by Gov. Jay Inslee, but details were not released to the public until Monday afternoon.

The state Legislature will likely vote on the budget Monday evening. TVW will broadcast and webcast the debate live in the Senate and House. Inslee must sign the budget before Wednesday to avoid a government shutdown.

The details of the budget are posted online. Among the highlights:

-An additional $1.3 billion will be spent in K-12 education to meet McCleary obligations, including smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, all-day kindergarten and fully funding maintenance, supplies and operating costs.

-$173 million for pay raises for state workers, fully funding collective bargaining agreements.

-$153 million for pay raises for teachers. Combined with a cost-of-living pay raises, that will amount to a 3 percent raise for the 2015-16 school year and a 1.8 percent raise for the 2016-17 school year.

-Colleges and universities will see varying tuition cuts. The state’s two research universities, UW and WSU, will get a 15 percent tuition cut. Four-year regional universities such as Western Washington University or Evergreen State College will get a 20 percent cut. Community and technical colleges will get a 5 percent reduction. The tuition cuts will be phased-in starting with a 5 percent reduction this year.

-An increase in revenue of about $200 million will come from repealing tax breaks, increasing certain fees and transferring lotto funds. The budget repeals a tax break for software manufacturers, eliminates a preferential business and occupation tax rate for royalty income and increases Dept. of Revenue late fee penalties.

-A decrease of about $35 million in revenue will come from extending or reinstating several tax breaks, including one for food processors and another tax break for data server farms.

-$134 million will go to early learning, including expanded preschool, funding the Early Start Act and child care eligibility changes.

Read the budget overview here for more highlights.

Categories: Budget

Budget agreement reached, third special session begins Sunday to finalize deal

By | June 27, 2015 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders from the House and Senate announced Saturday afternoon they have reached a budget agreement that will avoid a government shutdown, although a third special session is required to finalize the deal.

Without divulging any numbers, Inslee said the budget takes a takes a “significant step” in funding K-12 schools and makes “historic investments” in early childhood learning.

Teachers and state workers will receive the first cost-of-living pay raise since 2008, the governor said.

The budget also “eases the burden” of rising tuition at the state’s colleges and universities, Inslee said. Tuition was one of the remaining sticking points between the GOP-led Senate and House Democrats. The Senate called for a 25 percent tuition cut, while the House proposed a tuition freeze. Inslee did not release the compromise figure.

State parks will also get enhanced funding in the budget.

“If you have a reservation at our state park system for next weekend, two good things will happen,” Inslee said. Parks will get additional money to “keep the roofs from falling down” at the picnic shelters, he said, and people won’t have to worry about a government shutdown cancelling their Fourth of July plans.

State government would be forced into a partial shutdown if a budget is not adopted by June 30. Inslee said he is confident that will not happen.

The second special session officially ended Saturday, and a third special session will begin Sunday.

“Hundreds of important but minor details” have yet to be resolved, Inslee said. Legislative leaders say they plan to have the budget details made public within 48 hours.

Lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said the budget is likely to pass out of both chambers on Monday evening.

“We feel very strongly this is a great budget,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said the budget meets the priorities laid out by his caucus this year, which proposed a no-new-taxes approach.

The final agreement does close some tax breaks, while extending other tax preferences that will result in a net gain of revenue for the state.

“It’s part of the compromise,” Hill said.

TVW taped the press conference. Watch it below.

Categories: Budget

Senate committee set to vote on budget bills, Gov. Inslee press conference at 5 p.m.

By | June 26, 2015 | Comments

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is set to vote on budget-related bills Friday afternoon, one day before the end of the current second special session. A third special session would be required for lawmakers to continue past Saturday, as they negotiate a budget deal necessary to avoid a potential government shutdown.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee has scheduled a press conference at 5 p.m. Friday, which TVW will carry live.

At 2:30 p.m. Friday, the Senate committee is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 6051, which would continue state government funding for one month if a budget is not in place by June 30, the deadline to avoid a partial shutdown. Republican budget leaders have said the budget is intended only to be used in an emergency.

Senate Bill 6052 is the latest GOP two-year operating budget proposal, which spends $38.2 billion in the 2015-17 budget cycle. It increases spending from the previous Senate offer by about $367 million.

Also on the agenda are two measures related to tax preferences:

Senate Bill 6138 would raise $126 million in revenue by closing tax breaks, including one for software manufacturers and a preferential business and occupation tax rate for royalty income.

Senate Bill 6057 reinstates or extends a dozen tax preferences, which would decrease revenue by about $113.5 million. It reinstates a high-tech research and development tax break that expired in January, extends a tax break for the food processing industry and provides a tax exemption for server equipment in data centers, among others.

The committee will also consider an education bill, which addresses K-12 and early education. It also cuts college tuition by 25 percent.

TVW will carry the hearing live at this link.

House Democrats passed their latest budget proposal, House Bill 1106, out of committee on Tuesday, along with a bill that would raise an additional $356 million for education by closing several tax breaks.

Categories: Budget

Senate committee hears latest GOP budget, emergency one-month budget

By | June 26, 2015 | Comments

The Senate budget-writing committee on Thursday held a public hearing on the latest GOP budget plan, which includes $126 million in new revenue from closing certain tax breaks.

Senate Republicans also introduced a one-month budget proposal intended to avoid a government shutdown if a budget is not in place by June 30. Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said it is “strictly an emergency” budget that “keeps the lights on and parks open for one month.”

Much of the focus of the hearing was on the updated two-year, $38.2 billion operating budget proposal. Senate Bill 6052 increases spending from the previous Senate budget proposal by $367 million — largely to provide a 3.8 percent raise to K-12 school employees.

Hill said the budget also moves closer to the House position by increasing spending in early learning and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grants.

“The debate over taxes is over,” Hill said. “The debate over funding education is over and the debate over the social safety net is over.”

The last remaining sticking point between the two budgets is college tuition, Hill said. The Senate is proposing a 25 percent tuition cut at the state’s colleges and universities, while House Democrats are proposing a tuition freeze.

The House held a hearing on the latest Democratic budget proposal on Monday, including a plan to raise $356 million by closing several tax breaks.

The Senate plan would raise about a third of that by closing two tax breaks, including an exemption for software manufacturers and a preferential tax rate for royalty income. Senate Bill 6138 also makes changes to certain tax collections.

“We believe these are solid economic policy and will have a positive effect on the overall budget,” Hill said.

The committee adjourned without voting on the proposals. The House and Senate are meeting again Friday, the 29th day of the second special session.

Watch the hearing at this link.

Categories: Budget, WA Senate

Elson Floyd honored by Legislature

By | June 25, 2015 | Comments

Legislators in both chambers honored late Washington State University president Elson Floyd with a resolution on Thursday, highlighting how the charismatic leader lobbied the Legislature for a new public medical school even as his own health was in decline.

Floyd died Saturday at 59 from complications from colon cancer, two weeks after taking medical leave.

“He was the definitive champion for moving WSU forward and a tireless advocate for creating a WSU medical school,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane.

Elson Floyd

Elson Floyd

The resolution adopted by lawmakers lists several of Floyd’s accomplishments at the university, including the establishment of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center and the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.

Research funding increased by an “astounding” 57 percent under Floyd’s tenure, while enrollment reached “record highs” — including a spike in the number of students from diverse backgrounds, according to the resolution.

“To know Elson was to like him, to respect him, to admire him. It’s so tough that such a gift was taken so soon,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

The university president had a way of bringing Republicans and Democrats together, Baumgartner said, as evidenced by the passage of a bill by the Legislature in March that allows WSU to establish its own medical school.

On Thursday, a bill was introduced in the House to name the new medical school the Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine. The Senate is expected to file a companion bill.

TVW taped both the House and Senate floor resolutions — links will be posted online here.

House Democrats release latest budget plan, call for ending several tax breaks

By | June 23, 2015 | Comments

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday held a public hearing on the latest Democratic budget plan, which does not include new taxes but would raise about $356 million by closing several tax breaks.

Lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said Monday the plan does not represent an agreement with Senate Republicans, but is a “move to keep our negotiations moving forward.”

Democrats are no longer calling for a capital gains or other new taxes to pay for increased spending on early learning, mental health and other programs. Hunter said the latest budget represents only “what you can actually buy and pay for” without new revenue.

It makes the minimal expenditures required to comply with K-12 education spending for McCleary, mental health lawsuits and other settlements, Hunter said. It also freezes college tuition for a year and pays for state worker raises. Read the summary here.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said in a news release the budget is a “backup plan designed to meet the very basic needs of the state and avoid a shutdown.” State government would be forced into a partial shutdown if a budget is not adopted by June 30.

Democrats are also proposing House Bill 2269 — which Sullivan called “Plan A” — to close or limit several tax breaks to raise additional money for education. Bottled water would no longer be exempt from sales tax, a preferential business-and-occupation tax rate for resellers of prescription drugs would be eliminated and a tax break for extracted fuel would be narrowed.

Revenue of about $356 million from closing the tax breaks would pay for additional teacher cost-of-living raises, more early learning spots and increased funding for the state’s colleges and universities.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale criticized the plan, saying it still amounts to a tax increase. “They say they want to close tax loopholes. But I think the people of Washington see though it and understand these are taxes on things they need in their daily lives,” he said.

TVW aired the public hearing — watch it here. The committee is scheduled to vote on the plan on Tuesday.

Categories: Budget, Democrats

On TVW this week: House Appropriations, Senate Transpo committees

By | June 22, 2015 | Comments

TVW is covering the following events live on television this week:

Monday, June 22 at 9:30 a.m.: The Senate Energy committee is considering Senate Bill 6132, which would allow an electric company in the state to acquire and retire an eligible coal plant.

Monday, June 22 at 3 p.m.: The House Appropriations committee is holding a public hearing on several budget-related bills. The committee will also consider a bill that would delay by four years the implementation of Initiative 1351, the class size reduction measure approved last year by voters.

Tuesday, June 23 at 1:30 p.m.: The House Appropriations committee will continue its hearing on the budget and other bills.

Wednesday, June 24 at 8:30 a.m.: The Senate Transportation committee is meeting to discuss three bills.

TVW will go live with the House and Senate floor as they take up legislation in the final week of the second special session. The session is scheduled to end on June 27.


Categories: TVW

Budget leaders discuss compromise options with capital gains tax off the table

By | June 19, 2015 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative budget leaders on Friday said they are getting closer to a budget deal that will avert a government shutdown.

“There is no reason — zero — why we can’t have a budget done in one week,” Inslee said.

State government would be forced into a partial shutdown if a two-year operating budget is not adopted by June 30.

Democrats are no longer calling for a capital gains tax, which Inslee said is because the state is on track to collect about $700 million more in new revenue than expected.

Inslee said he believes closing tax breaks worth between $300 to $350 million will give “both sides big policy wins and produce a responsible, sustainable budget.” The governor pointed to a tax break for extracted fuel as an example of an exemption that should be closed, although he said he doesn’t plan to dictate a list of tax breaks to lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said Democrats took the capital gains tax off the table “contingent on the Senate agreeing to a package of tax loopholes that would allow us to make investments that we need to make.”

Democrats are moving to the middle by reducing spending in “critical areas,” Sullivan said, such as mental health and early learning.  “That’s what compromise is all about and we’re willing to do that,” he said.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said closing tax exemptions is an option. “We always said we should be looking at exemptions, some are old and not needed anymore,” he said.

Negotiations should be able to move forward quickly, he said.

“We’re looking forward to working over the weekend to close the gaps and get a final agreement,” Hill said.

TVW taped press conferences with Inslee, Democratic and Republican leaders. Find all three videos here.

Categories: Budget, Governors Office

State prepares for partial government shutdown if no budget deal is reached

By | June 18, 2015 | Comments

As the June 30 deadline approaches for legislators to strike a budget deal, more than 25,000 state workers are slated to receive temporary layoff notices and dozens of state agencies are bracing for a potential government shutdown.

Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget and legal advisers on Thursday laid out contingency plans in case of a shutdown, even as his staff said the governor remains “optimistic” that lawmakers will reach an agreement.

Without a two-year operating budget in place, 30 state agencies would be completely shut down — including the Liquor Control Board, Services for the Blind and Washington State Parks. All camping reservations at state parks would be cancelled, days before the Fourth of July holiday.

Another 25 state agencies would be partially shutdown. The state Department of Social and Health Services, for example, would suspend about two-thirds of its services, including adoption programs, immigrant state food assistance and family support services.

Eastern and Western State Hospitals, the state’s psychiatric wards, will remain operational, as well as child protective services. Medicaid would temporarily continue for several weeks until a federally-mandated termination process begins.

The Department of Corrections will stop accepting new transfers to state prisons, instead asking county jails to hold the offenders. Community supervision of offenders would be significantly scaled back.

The Office of Financial Management has a summary of the potential state agency impacts listed here. The office also has guidance for state employees facing a temporary layoff.

In 2013, legislators also came close to a government shutdown, reaching a budget deal only three days before the deadline.

Director of the Office of Financial Management David Schumacher said his office used contingency plans submitted by state agencies in 2013 as a starting point for the current shutdown preparations.

“This time as we’ve gone through, it’s been much more straightforward,” he said. “A lot of these questions have been wrestled with previously.”

The decisions about which government services will continue during a shutdown are based on a legal analysis of constitutional mandates and federal law, he said. Government services can also continue in case of an emergency or risk to public safety.

Temporary layoff letters will be sent to state employees next Tuesday. Schumacher acknowledged the letters will “generate anxiety,” although he said he doesn’t believe a shutdown will actually occur.

“I do think it is likely that letters will go out on the 23rd. I think would be wildly optimistic to think we’ll have a deal by then,” Schumacher said.

TVW taped the press conference — watch it at this link.


Pat McCarthy addresses debate over free tickets for lawmakers at U.S. Open

By | June 16, 2015 | Comments

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy says she believes the “hullabaloo” over legislators accepting free tickets to the U.S. Open has dissuaded some lawmakers from attending the golf championship, but she hopes the dozen lawmakers who did accept the offer will go back to Olympia to educate their caucuses.

“The twelve that accepted are bipartisan and from the House and Senate. They can be the proselytizers of how great an event it is,” McCarthy said.

Pierce County invited 45 legislators to watch the competition and attend a three-hour briefing on the tournament’s economic impact. The briefing was designed to meet a Legislative Ethics Board rule allowing legislators to accept the free ticket if official business was involved, but the county drew strong criticism for closing the briefing to the press.

McCarthy said legislators need to take in the entire experience.

“You can’t just do a PowerPoint presentation. You have to see it. The magnitude of it is so huge and so important for the state of Washington,” she told TVW’s Anita Kissee of “The Impact” during an interview this week.

McCarthy said the tournament will bring $8 million “into the state coffers that wouldn’t be there” without the U.S. Open.

The Impact” this week looks at the state investments that helped to make Chambers Bay appealing to the U.S. Golf Association and goes in-depth on the statewide economic impact of the event.

The show will air Wednesday, June 17 at 7 & 10 p.m. It includes an extended interview with McCarthy and others.