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Senate passes budget with $1 billion for McCleary decision
The Washington State Senate passed its $33.2 billion budget late Friday, featuring no new taxes but roughly $1 billion to fund education.
Approved by a 30-18 vote, the Senate's $33.2 billion budget sets aside $1 billion to begin to tackle education funding as dictated by the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision. The budget also aims to generate savings by cutting programs while avoiding new taxes. State Sen. Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way) was among nine Democrats who voted yes.
Earlier last week, the proposal received immediate negative feedback from state leaders like Gov. Jay Inslee and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Inslee, who released his own proposed budget last week, had said the Senate's early budget proposal is problematic at best.
"This proposal is deeply flawed. It's the same old game that relies on short-term fixes and budget tricks, and it results in policy choices that would take our state backward," the governor said. "The Senate proposal to address our basic education obligations is funded in large part through cuts to vital services for children, families and vulnerable adults — exactly what I have said we must not do. The proposal released today would cut child care subsidies for low-income families and other families working to get off welfare, and reduce long-term care services for the elderly and people with developmental disabilities. It would make deep cuts to our state prison system, would force us to close state parks and fall far short of my plan for expanding early childhood education opportunities."
One of the biggest cuts Inslee referred to was the elimination of a program that provides cash assistance to disabled, blind, or older people who are waiting to be eligible for the Social Security Insurance program, which, in the Senate budget, is anticipated will save the state $40.9 million.
The Senate's $8.7 billion transportation budget includes the following for the 30th District, according to State Sen. Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way), who is co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee:
• $775,000 for Federal Way Pedestrian Connection: The project includes sidewalk, curb, gutter, curb ramps, planter strips, sharrow markings, street lights, roundabouts and flashing beacons.
• Funding to continue construction of the I-5/SR-18/SR-161 Triangle Project. There is $7.6 million available for this project, according to Eide's office. There is also an additional $1.8 million for the second stage of the project to update the environmental documentation, complete right-of-way plans, and complete the design for 30 percent of the next stage of the project, according to Eide's office.
In terms of the overall budget, Eide's office noted the Senator voted in favor of the Senate budget for a number of reasons, among them the fact that it's a "first step that keeps the process moving forward," and that it's an example of bi-partisanship in these polarized times.
Even though she votes yes on the Senate version of the budget, Eide's office noted that the Senator disagreed with some parts of the budget, including the education funding that "come(s) at the expense of children and vulnerable adults." From Eide's perspective, the Senate budget "cuts critical programs for low-income women, the homeless, and the disabled," citing the fact that programs to end homelessness were "cut by over 50 percent in this budget, which will result in 35,000 additional homeless individuals."
Other savings/and or cuts included in the Senate proposal:
• $65 million from administrative efficiencies at government agencies using lean management principles
• $40 million in savings through a new compliance system that will collect unpaid sales and use tax
• $10 million in savings from the use of structured settlements and reduced worker compensation charges to the state
• $4 million in savings from an increase in the license fee for adult family homes
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy was not impressed with the Senate's proposal.
"The Senate's proposal…is a step back," Dorn said. "The Senate budget doesn't fund crucial programs, and it uses a dubious budget gimmick to fund some of its enhancements…While I appreciate that the Senate budget includes significant funding for pupil transportation…in the wake of the Supreme Court's McCleary decision, that just isn't enough progress toward full state funding by 2018. And whatever progress is made by the Senate budget is mitigated by the harm that will be done to our students."
The budget tug-of-war will continue, with the State House of Representatives currently working on its own version. The last day of the current legislative session is April 28.