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Inslee proposes 'modest budget adjustments'

Gov. Jay Inslee - Contributed
Gov. Jay Inslee
— image credit: Contributed

Gov. Jay Inslee announced “proposed modest adjustments” to the state’s 2013-15 operating budget, during a press conference Dec. 17.

The adjustments are needed to “cover mandatory cost increases and meet key obligations,” according to a press release from the governor’s office. Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget with “small, targeted investments” is meant to revitalize the state’s economy and strengthen the state’s workforce.

“The good news is, our economy continues its slow, steady recovery from the worst recession in generations,” Inslee said. “Unfortunately, the economy and our revenue collections are not growing fast enough to keep pace with the costs of maintaining current services, let alone provide the billions of dollars still needed to meet our court-mandated basic education obligations. This a hold-steady budget that keeps us whole the remainder of the biennium, but we’ll have to make some tough decisions again next year.”

According to the governor’s office, “the bulk of the added spending in the governor’s supplemental budget covers a variety of mandatory cost increases, meets legal or contractual obligations and continues delivering services at current levels.” A third of those cost increases are driven by rising school enrollment and program caseloads.

Other items in the supplemental budget include:

• $8 million to begin complying with a legal settlement requiring the state to significantly expand mental health services for children

• $10 million to fund a collectively bargained rate increase for family home child care providers

• $11 million to cover wildfire costs, which were incurred this past summer.

The governor’s office also notes $7 million is being provided to increase the state’s prison capacity, with most of those funds going towards a medium-security unit at the Washington State Penitentiary.

The supplemental budget is also putting funds towards the governor’s plan to invest in the state’s aerospace future, as Inslee continues his attempts to land the bulk of the assembly process for Boeing’s 777x jetliner. Inslee was able to get the Legislature to call an emergency session in recent months to work out a deal for Boeing, but that plan has so far experienced severe setbacks as Boeing and their machinist’s union have failed to come to an agreement on a contract renewal.

The mid-biennium adjustments also include funding for education, including:

• $3 million for a new teacher mentoring program

• $300,000 to develop new career and technical education curricula to provide multiple paths to meet math and science graduation requirements

• $250,000 for an early warning dropout prevention program

• Other “targeted investments to enhance science, technology, engineering and math education in the K-12 and community college systems.”

Inslee indicated he hopes the Legislature can adopt these adjustments quickly, so the task of dealing with the 2015-17 biennial budget can begin sooner, rather than later. The governor’s office anticipates the 2015-17 budget will be challenging, because of having to “patch holes left by the one-time fixes in the current budget” and also the need to “address a backlog of needs.” In addition, the 2015-17 biennium budget will have to address the anticipated $1-2 billion needed to meet the state’s funding obligations for education, as laid out in the McCleary decision in recent years.

The governor appears to be taking a similiar tack to the one he used last spring in budget negotiations, saying there are a number of tax loopholes and other issues that need to be addressed in order to get the state’s financial feet back under itself.

“We cannot - and will not - meet all these needs and obligations by cutting services to vulnerable children and adults, higher education and communities,” he said. “I fully expect we’ll continue our rigorous discussion about closing tax loopholes and using those resources to fund our children’s education.”

 

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