The 2015 legislative session is scheduled to end next week, but without any signs of progress on the budget, it’s tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The real deadline for a grand bargain is not the April 26th, but July 1st, which is when the state government will partially shut down if no budget is passed. In 2013, the Legislature came within three days of a shutdown. Even if legislators avoid a shutdown, a special session seems inevitable.
Here are the general budget proposals: House Democrats proposed a $38.8 billion for the 2015-17 biennium, with $1.4 billion earmarked for the improvements in Grades K-3 ordered by the Washington Supreme Court. Their plan includes $1.5 billion in new revenue with a capital gains tax, an increase in the business-and-occupation tax for service firms, and the closing of seven tax breaks. Senate Republicans, on the other hand, do not plan on raising new revenue, aside from $40 million that will come from letting 15 tax breaks expire. They plan to spend $1.3 billion earmarked for the court-ordered work in Grades K-3.
Meanwhile, Governor Inslee made it clear that aside from $1.3 billion or more in new spending on K-12 education, he expects lawmakers to fully fund state worker and teacher pay raises (issues that have not received as much publicity) without borrowing from the state capital budget. After a closed door meeting on Friday, Republican leaders accused Governor Inslee of threatening to veto any budget that does not include new taxes.
If legislators are going to pass a budget, they’ll need to compromise and make trades on a variety of contentious issues, including school levy reform proposals, the capital gains tax, I-1351, state pay raises, and amendments to the transportation package.
“There’s a belief that if you shut down the government, the Republicans will get the blame,” said Senator Andy Hill (R), hinting that Democrats are holding out on budget negotiations in an effort to push the government closer to a shutdown.
Governor Inslee made it clear that he wants to raise new state revenues. After reiterating his preference for a capital-gains tax or carbon pricing, he told legislators, “I’m not here to tell you how to raise the money needed.”
This week is full of festivities. While not as exciting as last week’s zombie madness, a number of groups will be descending upon the capitol.
Beginning at 9:30AM on Saturday, April 25, the Washington Education Association will make it’s presence known on the North steps of the capitol — timely, given this session’s most pressing issues. Following that, the Procession of the Species will take place at 4:30PM. The latter is one of Olympia’s weirdest, but most famous annual events.