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Morning Wire: Tax & budget bills, Revenue pickup, COVID-19 & educational outcomes

Washington was one of just 7 states waiting until May 1 to allow all residents over 16 to be vaccinated — until yesterday when Inslee announced the date was moved up to April 15th. The 14-day change in Washington State is up 33%.  

These contradictory data points underscore the reality that COVID-19 is unlikely to ever leave us. It’s now endemic in the population. The public health science has been consistent here. However, it’s anticipated that the rate of deaths will fall considerably over time as vaccinations and our natural immune response build up.

So, don’t let breathless headlines lure you towards fear or pessimism. Just as you get a flu shot to forestall the effects of that coronavirus, you’ll need to get a booster for your COVID vaccine to mitigate the impacts from this coronavirus. As younger generations with strong, agile immune systems age, the risk of death will fall further because of exposure over time. We’ll get sick, but we’ll get through it. It’s what our ‘new normal’ will look like.

With help from Michael Goldberg

1.  Changes to tax and budget bills

Tomorrow is the last day to pass bills out of committee and read them into the record on the floor from fiscal committees. Technically, however, if a bill is NTIB, or “needed to implement budget,” which fiscal bills often are, then such legislation can come up at any time. That said, yesterday, a substitute version of  Rep. Noel Frame’s wealth tax bill passed in executive session, while Sen. June Robinson’s capital gains tax bill has not yet been scheduled for exec. The wealth tax will now fund the new anti-displacement property tax exemption program. 

The House and Senate operating budget proposals were all exec’d this week, and the Senate’s is headed to the floor today. The Washington Research Council published an analysis outlining how the proposals have changed thus far. Compared to Sen. Rolfes’s original proposal, the operating budget passed would increase spending from funds subject to the outlook (NGFO) by $3.2 million in 2019–21 and by $81.5 million in 2021–23. Compared to Rep. Ormsby’s original proposal, NGFO spending by $5.4 million in 2019–21 and by $142.7 million in 2021–23. 

2.  Washington projected to have highest revenue gains in the country

Across the last two fiscal years, Washington State’s revenue is forecasted to be 11.5% above what it would have collected if revenues stayed at FY 2019 levels both years—the largest post-pandemic gain of any state, according to an analysis released by The Pew Charitable Trusts yesterday. Washington is one of only a dozen states expected to maintain positive revenue growth in nominal dollars for fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021, while 23 states expected revenue to fall.
Revenue growth in Washington is projected to continue this fiscal year. When combined with increases last year, the state expects to collect nearly 12% more than if collections had stayed at pre-pandemic fiscal 2019 levels, the largest two-year gain nationally. The March forecast cited strong retail sales and a booming real estate market. After Washington, states anticipating the highest revenue growth over the last two fiscal years were Idaho (10.9%) and Utah (9.4%). States with the largest projected losses have economies reliant on tourism or energy: Wyoming (-27.2%), Alaska (-14.1%), and Hawaii (-7.4%).

3. Why Democrats said WSP requested emergency clause in open carry bill

Reporter Michael Goldberg has the scoop on why several Democrats said that the Washington State Patrol (WSP) asked the legislature to add an emergency clause to Senate Bill 5038, when in fact, the agency did not. Goldberg traced the misunderstanding back to a conversation between the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Patty Kuderer, and Sen. Sam Hunt.

“Senator Hunt and I had a conversation, and I guess what I thought he said was not what he said. He has not spoken with state patrol, he made a comment about expressing whether they should be concerned about this and I heard that they were concerned about this. So that’s how that got relayed.”

Speaker Laurie Jinkins initially said WSP wanted an emergency clause due to “the violence that has been seen on or around the Capitol Campus over the course of the last year.” Kuderer believes Senate Democrats will still have the votes to pass the bill, even with the addition of the emergency clause.

Sponsored post from
College Promise Coalition

Washington has seen a shocking decline in college enrollment over the past year, as many young people — particularly young people of color and those from low-income backgrounds — have had their plans disrupted by the pandemic. Meanwhile, most jobs in Washington require some form of postsecondary degree or credential, and economists predict that many low-skill jobs will not return post-pandemic, making job training and education all the more critical.

As we confront long-term impacts of the pandemic, we need a specific focus on 16-19 year olds. College Promise Coalition is advocating for increased investment to help Washington students earn post-high school credentials and degrees — with a focus on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. We cannot afford to let the future prospects of our young people be a COVID casualty. Washington needs to step up and offer strong support. Their futures and the future of our workforce depend on it.

4.  Examining the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on K-12 Students

One out of four public high school students in Washington received a grade that does not earn them credit during the 2020-21 academic year (as of March 2021), an increase of about 42% from the prior academic year, according to a new report from the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC). The March report also notes that almost half of Washington students still have no regular in-person instruction, and in-person instruction is even less common for high school students.

Washington also saw a 42 percent increase in the combined proportion of students receiving either a failing, no credit, or an incomplete grade in a course. Between August and March of the 2019-2020 academic year, 18 percent of students did not receive credit for a course they took. During the same time period in the 2020-2021 academic year, that number was 25 percent. Postsecondary enrollment in Washington was down 13 percent in the fall of 2020 compared to the prior year.

5. The multigenerational effort to make it easier for teachers to live where they work 

If you are a teacher or school employee in a school district with over 2000 students, a bill moving through the legislature might provide you with more affordable housing options. Senate Bill 5043 would give the green light for school districts to issue general obligation bonds to build staff housing, following approval from voters. These local measures could also lead to more housing options for other public employees, as districts could partner with city, county, police, or local fire departments to house their public employees close to where they work.

This issue traces back over a century in Washington State. Josephine Preston, the first woman elected to statewide office in Washington, worked as Superintendent of Public Instruction to create district-funded living quarters for single instructors, in rural Washington. Now, proponents of the bill say the situation is flipped and urban districts are hard pressed to attract and retain staff because of a lack of affordable housing. 

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