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Gov. Inslee releases 'Working Washington' budget priorities
Mirror staff reports:
Gov. Jay Inslee released his "Working Washington 2013-15" budget priorities earlier this week, which calls for $1.2 billion in "new targeted education investments tied to strong accountability measures," according to his office.
For the governor, trying to fulfill the State Supreme Court decision of McCleary v. Washington, which indicated the state needs to "fully fund" education going forward, is a critical step in revitalizing Washington's overall economic outlook.
"I feel deeply that my number one priority is to help rebuild our economy, get people working again, and take important steps toward building a workforce of the future," the governor said. "And that begins with education."
According to Inslee's office, his budget plan "includes funding for full-day kindergarten expansion and reducing kindergarten and first grade class sizes, early reading intervention, dropout prevention programs and more professional development opportunities for educators."
On top of that, Inslee has proposed adding $35 million to expand preschool opportunities.
The governor appears to be drawing a line in the sand, saying he won't consider further cuts to what he and his office consider "vital services for children, seniors and vulnerable adults" in order to meet the education funding obligation as set forth by the McCleary ruling.
Instead, according to his office, "the governor proposes closing tax breaks and extending tax rates set to expire June 30 — a .3 percent business and occupation tax surcharge paid by doctors, lawyers and accountants and others, and a 50-cent-per-gallon beer tax."
"Today, I chose education over tax breaks. I choose fulfilling our constitutional and moral duty to ensure quality schools for our children. When we give these tax breaks a hard look, they just don't measure up to our urgent need to better fund education," the governor said.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn released a statement in response to Inslee's proposed budget, saying Inslee is on the right path, but there's still much to be done to meet the obligations of the McCleary decision.
"Without question, an additional $1.3 billion will do a lot of good for students," Dorn said. "Overall, it shows a good-faith effort on the part of the governor to get us to where we need to be. (However), the 2012 McCleary decision by the Supreme Court is clear: Washington state must fully fund education by 2018. Even a $1.3 billion increase is the bare minimum to keep us on that path."
Dorn said top funding priorities for education must be school transportation, maintenance, supplies and operating costs; full-day kindergarten; and lowering the class size in grades K-3.
"According to the Quality Education Council, these costs alone will be roughly $3.4 billion," Dorn said.
At the local level for education, Federal Way Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business Service Sally McLean said she hadn't had time to fully analyze Inslee's proposal, but from what she's seen so far, it's a "step in the right direction."
Outside of the education issues, Inslee's office notes his budget priorities include:
• Promote policies and opportunities to grow jobs
• Step up efforts on Lean management so state agencies operate more effectively and efficiently, within available resources
• Protect vital services to seniors, children and the disabled and improve access for to health care through expansion of Medicaid
• Reinvest in Washington's quality of life with renewed investments in state parks
Also according to Inslee's office, his budget plan will address a projected shortfall of $2 billion over the next two years, while leaving $500 million in reserves.