Archive for Budget

Dueling school levy reform bills emerge from Senate, hearing set for Thursday

By | April 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Senate lawmakers unveiled dueling levy reform bills from both sides of the aisle Wednesday, 11 days before the Washington state legislature winds down its regular session.

The two levy concepts will get a hearing at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Under a court mandate from the McCleary decision to fully fund basic education from state coffers, lawmakers say they want to reduce the reliance of local levies from basic education and increase the burden of the cost on the state.

Many districts currently use their local levy money to pay for things that would be considered basic education, such as teacher salaries. Some districts also have a harder time getting levies approved by voters.

However, Democrats and Republicans have differing approaches for how to boost state funding for basic education.

Senate Democrats Wednesday morning rolled out their plan, which includes a levy reform bill dropped by Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, that would fund teacher salaries starting in 2018, and then lower the local levy revenue dollar per dollar. The bill sets the maximum levy authority for local districts at $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, beginning in 2023.

The increased state spending would be paid through a 7 percent capital gains tax that would apply to gains higher than $250,000 for single taxpayer (or $500,000 per couple). It would not apply to houses. Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, introduced that bill and said the proposal would raise $1.2 billion in the next biennium and would apply to about 7,500 people.

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.

At the Democrats’ press conference. Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, also discussed her bill that phases in an increase in education funding, including a six-year plan for teacher compensation and year-by-year roll out of class size reductions in all grades. She said that gets to the full McCleary plan.

Wednesday afternoon Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, introduced a competing plan, which also would replace local levy money being used for compensation with state money, while reducing the local levy amounts dollar for dollar. His plan caps school levies at $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value.

However, his bill would be funded through an increase of about $1.50 per $1,000 in the statewide levy for schools, which currently is set at $1.98 per $1,000 of assessed value. However, Dammeier says the change would be revenue neutral, because there would be a corresponding reduction in local levies.

So, while individual taxpayers may see a change in their tax bills, the burden would be shifted to the state common schools levy rather than the local district levy.

His bill also calls for a six-year phase in of a change in teacher pay, making it more uniform across regions of the state. The bill would repeal the teacher COLA that was approved in Initiative 732, and the state would set a statewide salary schedule with adjustments for level of education and for regional variables in costs of living. The phase-in period would allow teachers at a lower salary to catch up with more highly compensated teachers in the same region, and no teacher would see a reduction in pay, he said.

Dammeier said that his plan evens out teacher pay across regions of the state as well as district levy levels, which he says has been an issue of fairness over the the past 30 years.

The solution has “got to be fair, it’s got be equitable and it’s got to be sustainable,” he said.

But Ranker said while Dammeier’s plan will lower taxes in some districts, most districts throughout the state could see an increase in property taxes. He said that’s why he made his capital gains proposal —which would affect 7,500 people — instead.

“We looked different scenarios, and this would raise taxes for many people. That’s why we said we’re going to look at another funding source,” Ranker said.

Hargrove and Dammeier’s bills are scheduled for a hearing at the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

TVW recorded both press conferences. They will be posted in the archives.

Frustrated with Legislature, Randy Dorn unveils OSPI K-12 plan

By | April 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Randy DornFrustrated with the House, Senate and governor’s proposals to fund K-12 education, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn unveiled an OSPI funding plan for K-12 on Tuesday.

Dorn’s plan decreases class sizes not only in kindergarten through third grade, but also grades 4 through 12. However, it does not decrease class sizes as much as in voter approved Initiative 1351.

The plan also calls for statewide collective bargaining for teachers with regional adjustments and stretches out the deadline for full funding by 2018 to 2021. The 2018 deadline was court-ordered after the state lost the McCleary school funding lawsuit.

Dorn said he is suggesting the time extension partly because there may not be enough teachers available to hire to fill the staffing gap.

“It’s not just do you have teachers, but are they quality teachers?” he said. “I don’t just want a teacher in front of every kid. I want a quality teacher in front of every student,” Dorn said.

He also called for changes to the school levy system. Many school districts use local voter-approved levies to fund teacher salaries and other basic needs, as well as for other programs and activities that enhance schools.

Some districts have a harder time passing operating levies than other districts, and not all districts have equal limits on how high the levies can be.

Dorn says those differences put students in richer districts at an educational advantage over those in poorer districts.

“I believe this is a civil rights issue,” Dorn said.

Dorn’s plan increases K-12 statewide spending by $2.2 billion in the 2015-17 biennium, which is a greater increase in education spending than the budget proposals that have come out of the House, Senate or the Governor’s office.

Dorn suggested that some of the local levy money from school districts could help pay for that, if the state allows local levy money to be transferred to the state general fund, which would be used to fund schools throughout the state.

Dorn said that he hopes to prevent harming the districts that can get operating levies passed by phasing in the changes.

“One of our concepts is to do no harm. That’s what our hope would be that we would do no harm bringing other districts up the level of the richer districts,” he said.

However, Dorn demurred on unveiling his whole plan on how the state will fund his $2.2 billion spending increase, saying that State Treasurer James L. McIntire will talk about that plan on Thursday.

Dorn’s plan comes two weeks before the scheduled end of the 2015 regular legislative session.

“I just get the feeling that we’re going to be here longer than the next two weeks,” Dorn said.

Details on the plan released Tuesday are on the OSPI website.

Categories: Budget, Education, McCleary

Senate hears testimony on $3.9 billion capital budget proposal

By | April 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Senate Ways and Means Committee considered a bi-partisan $3.9 billion capital budget proposal on Wednesday, with adjustments from the $3.8 billion capital budget passed in the House last week.

The University of Washington. (Photo by hjl via Flickr.)

The University of Washington. (Photo by hjl via Flickr.)

Among the adjustments made in the Senate budget was the funding of $32.5 million for a new University of Washington computer science building. The University of Washington had requested $40 million to help pay for the building, and construction was not funded to that level in the House budget.

University of Washington director of state relations Genesee Adkins said the Senate’s proposed $32.5 million would help with accommodating the numbers of students who want to go into that field.

“This will allow us to double our enrollments in computer science,” she said.

The Senate’s proposal also puts $65 million in the Housing Trust Fund, which provides grants and loans for low income housing projects.

However, housing advocates hoped that the Senate could move closer to the House’s $80 million proposal for the Housing Trust Fund.

“We’re very grateful for the $65 million. We hope in conference you can get to the $80 million [that was] provided in the House,” said Mark Smith, executive director of the Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County. He said the housing is needed by low-income families and seniors.

“It leads to a higher quality of life,” he said.

The Senate capital budget proposal also includes a $30 million grant program that would expand the number of community behavioral health beds and $280 million for added classrooms to enable class-size reductions in kindergarten through third grade.

A full listing of the projects funded in the proposal are on the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program website.

The state’s fiscal information website contains a comparison of the House and Senate capital budgets online.

Categories: Budget

State Senate passes budget, modifies class size initiative

By | April 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Senate passed a two-year operating budget off the floor Monday, along with a bill that sends a class size reduction initiative back to the voters in an effort to save the state money.

Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill introduced the $38 billion budget Monday, saying it focuses on education and mental health without raising taxes.

“This budget balances without job-killing manufacturing tax increases,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Several Democrats spoke against the budget, saying it falls short on state worker pay raises and other issues. The Senate budget gives state workers up to a $2,000 pay raise over two years, instead of the salary increases negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement with the governor’s office.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said that amounts to a “hidden tax” on state workers.

“We’ve hidden the tax on state employees and community college employees and state patrol,” said Keiser. “They all had the assurance that when the economy improved we would make things right for them. But that promise is now broken as well.”

The budget passed along caucus lines, 26 to 23, with the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus in support and Democrats opposed.

The Senate also passed a bill that modifies Initiative 1351 and sends it backs to voters to ask whether they agree with the change. The initiative adopted by voters last year required smaller class sizes in all grades at a cost estimated around $4 billion through 2019. It did not come with a source of funding.

“It’s pretty clear at this point that it’s not affordable,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, speaking in support of changing the initiative.

The bill only pays for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Opponents of the bill argued that voters knew what they were doing when they passed the original initiative.

“Washington state has the 47th worst class sizes in the nation. And that’s why the people rightfully sent us to Olympia with a mission to correct that challenge,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.

The bill passed 27-22.

The House previously passed its budget. Both sides must negotiate a final budget plan.

Watch the highlights from both Senate floor debates, as well as discussion over a controversial payday lending bill, on Monday’s 15-minute edition of “Legislative Review” below.

Voters split on budget, Elway Poll reveals

By | April 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

As Washington lawmakers debate how to fund the state for the next two years, an Elway Poll released Monday reveals voters are just as divided.

Participants had the choice of two approaches to boost education spending: Don’t raise taxes, but face potential cuts to existing state programs and services, or raise taxes and spare programs and services.

A slight lead went to no new taxes with 48 percent in favor. Raising taxes was close behind with 43 percent approval.

Voters were also asked to weigh in on funding proposals. A majority support the GOP plan to move marijuana taxes away from public health and into education. But as many voters opposed the Republican proposal to reduce state employee raises from the levels negotiated last year.

Most agreed with Democrat-proposed taxes on capital gains and bottled water, but the majority was slight. Voters were split evenly on the same party’s plan to raise the Business and Occupation Tax.

The margin of sampling error is 4.5 percent.

“Voters would prefer to fund education and balance the budget with existing revenue, but they are open to persuasion on tax increases,” according to the analysis by Stewart Elway. “Not surprisingly, the taxes most favored are those deemed most likely to be paid by other people. A bigger problem: the tax proposals most voters support won’t produce enough revenue.”

The Senate passed the GOP-proposed budget Monday afternoon on a vote of 26-23. The House passed the Democrat’s budget proposal 51-47 Thursday afternoon.

Categories: Budget
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State Senate delays vote on budget, institutes ‘supermajority’ rule change

By | April 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

The State Senate worked overnight debating about 60 Democrat-sponsored amendments to the two-year operating budget proposed by the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, but ended up delaying the final budget vote until Monday.

Republicans attempted to advance the budget for a final vote around 2 a.m. Friday. “After over 60 amendments, $875 million dollars in unfunded amendments, we’ve had enough. It’s time to vote and move on to negotiations with the other body,” said Majority Leader Mark Schoesler.

But Democrats argued they needed more time to study the budget. “We’re being told it is now time to vote on the underlying budget, but it is not a bipartisan budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson.

The majority did not have enough votes to advance to a vote on the budget, which was put on hold until the chamber meets again at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Before the 10-hour debate began, the Senate voted along caucus lines to change the rules of the chamber. The Majority Coalition Caucus voted to require a supermajority 60 percent approval — or 30 yes votes out of 49 — for any amendments to the operating budget, instead of a simple majority.

Republicans said they asked for the rule change because of the number and type of amendments to the budget that the Democrats had proposed. Amendments touched on topics such as paid sick leave, anti-discrimination laws and climate change.

“We have a series of amendments that are about political games and not about governing,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “That’s why we have to put this rule in place.”

Schoesler said the budget should be about fiscal policy, not social issues. “It’s about how we fund our state. It’s not about a host of other issues that are brought in for political ‘gotchas,’” he said.

But Democrats questioned why a minority — 20 votes — should be able to stop the will of the majority. They also argued the amendments were germane to the budget.

“We’ve worked to make sure that the amendments are relevant,” said Nelson. “We do not believe instituting this rule is democratic. I believe this that this is a major step backwards for our state.” (more…)

Categories: Budget, TVW

Videos: House and Senate debate budgets on chamber floors

By | April 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

capitol_domeThe House and Senate debated their proposed 2015-17 budgets on the chamber floors Thursday.

The House passed its proposed $38.8 billion budget on Thursday afternoon 51-47.

The Senate held an overnight session, adjourning in the early morning hours, debating on about 70 amendments. After more than 10 hours of debate over amendments, the Senate adjourned without voting on the budget’s final passage. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene at 1 p.m. Monday.

TVW taped both floor debates. The 10-hour video of the Senate debate is available in the archives, as well as the House video. (Click on “more…” for video, if you are reading from the Capitol Record front page.) (more…)

Categories: Budget

Washington state Senate proposes $38 billion budget with no tax increases

By | March 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

A proposed $38 million 2015-17 budget was rolled out Tuesday by the Washington state Senate, headed by the Republican-run Majority Coalition Caucus.

The budget, which increases funding over the two years by $4.1 billion from current spending, contains no tax increases, and instead relies on a $3 billion increased revenue due to economic growth, lean cuts in government, moving $325 million expected in tax revenue from retail marijuana sales to the general fund and allowing several tax breaks to expire.

Sen. Andy Hill

Sen. Andy Hill

“You can see by this budget, we’re not just scraping by,” said lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill. “It’s clear we can make significant positive investments without putting jobs or our economy at risk.”

The budget increases spending in K-12 education by $1.3 billion, as well as $95 million for preschool and the Early Start Act.

The Senate budget also proposes an average 25 percent cut in college tuition at the state’s four year institutions. Hill said tuition has been rising steadily for decades, which amounts to “nothing more than a hidden tax on the those we depend most on our future.”

Teachers in the K-12 system will get the cost of living increases in accordance with Initiative 732. Other state workers will get a $2,000 raise over two years, no matter what their current level of pay. That’s different from the labor contracts negotiated by the governor’s office.

The Senate budget raises about $38 million by allowing more than a dozen tax breaks to expire, including the alternative fuel vehicle sales tax break.

Like the House Democrats proposal, the Senate’s version reduces class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, short of what voters approved in Initiative 1351. Republican lawmakers plan to send the altered initiative back to voters.

The budget proposal will be heard in committee at 3:30 p.m. in Senate Ways & Means. Hill says that the Senate hopes to have the budget moved off the floor by Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, says the proposed budget relies too much on reducing the negotiated pay increases to state workers, lean management and moving money from the capital budget.

“If $3 billion is enough and sustainable for our future as far as our growth, then why are they having to rely on other sources of revenue. To me they’ve already admitted the budget doesn’t balance without other revenue,” Nelson said.

House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, and Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Finance committee, released a joint statement on the proposal.

“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have given us an unsustainable budget that relies on gimmicks, gambles and a lot of marijuana. It is a budget that barely provides short-term relief to long-term problems,” they said.

The House’s proposal includes a capital gains tax would raise about $570 million for the two-year budget.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who also has called for a capital gains tax, questioned in a prepared statement whether the budget could keep pace with future costs.

“Washington’s current tax system is unfair and it does not keep pace with our state’s obligations to educate our children, support our most vulnerable citizens, and protect our natural resources.”

Budget documents are available on the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program website. (more…)

Categories: Budget

Senate budget proposal to be released at noon Tuesday, TVW will be live

By | March 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Senate Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill will announce the Senate’s operating budget proposal at noon on Tuesday at the Capitol.

TVW will carry the announcement live on television and on the web at this link.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will air live and at this link.

The House released its $38.8 billion budget proposal on Friday, calling for $1.4 billion in new taxes to pay for education. It also focuses on mental health and freezes college tuition.

Full budget documents for the Senate proposal will be available at the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) website following the announcement.

Categories: Budget, TVW, WA Senate

Monday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | March 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Monday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review,” including public testimony on the $38.8 billion House budget proposal that would raise taxes to pay for education. We also cover a Senate hearing on  a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, as well as details about the House capital budget.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: Budget