The Republican Senate majority unveiled its proposed budget for the 2017-2019 biennium this week. The $43.3 billion plan to fund state government includes $1.8 billion in new money for schools, spending more than 50 percent of the state budget on education for the first time since the 1980s.
— Majority CoalitionWA (@WashingtonMCC) March 22, 2017
Like clockwork, Democrats were quick to pan the proposal. Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson called it “cold-blooded” because of cuts to some social safety net programs. Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, expressed similar sentiments.
But don’t let the spin get in the way of facts. The Republican budget includes money for Meals on Wheels—the program President Trump has proposed cutting at the federal level—and an investment into Sen. Mark Miloscia’s, R-Federal Way, comprehensive overhaul of our homelessness programs, among other things.
Gov. Inslee also blasted the Republican budget, saying it was hard to take it “seriously.”
But in the same breath he made that accusation, Inslee lost all credibility by also attacking a tax break for woods chips and cedar planks used for cooking meat he signed into law just four years ago.
The exemption, which was proposed by Democrat Rep. Larry Springer and former Republican Sen. Bruce Dammeier in 2013, is being pushed for renewal by two Democrats this year: Ranker and Rep. Kris Lytton, D-Anacortes.
So excuse me if I can’t take Inslee’s criticisms seriously.
Inslee proposed his own budget, with a whopping $46.5 billion price tag which funds itself with passion tax policy projects like a capital gains tax and a carbon tax.
He has made it very clear since his 2012 campaign for governor that he opposes a levy swap to make school funding equitable, something Republicans are adamant is needed to make our system more fair and move forward on with their budget proposal this year.
Under the senate plan, a new state property tax levy of $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed value will fund basic education, and local school maintenance and operation levies would be eliminated. More than 80 percent of property owners would see a decrease in property taxes, while wealthier families in Seattle, Bellevue, and Mercer Island would see their property taxes go up.
You also can’t blame Inslee for disliking the budget coming from the right. Republicans opted to give state employees a $1,000 raise over the next two years instead of funding the $500 million collective bargaining agreement the governor’s administration negotiated with public employee unions during his reelection campaign last year.
The Republican proposal also cuts 10 percent of management positions at state agencies.
The Democrat House majority will release its budget next week, and surely it’ll be much closer to Inslee’s than this one, which means the real negotiation work will begin soon.
It’s hard to imagine the Legislature will compromise on a budget deal by April 23, when the session is supposed to conclude.
Two years ago, it took legislators until June 29 to strike a $38.2 billion budget deal, and despite the fact that Republicans are proposing spending 13 percent and $5 billion more on this year’s budget, they and Inslee are miles apart with their plans.
If any Olympia observers are currently planning summer vacations, you might want to hold off. It looks like we’ll be here for awhile.
Keith Schipper is a state GOP strategist. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.