The state will step up to its responsibility to educate public-school students and will make sure college graduates are ready for high-demand jobs under the budget proposal released by the House Democratic majority on Wednesday.
The budget proposal authored by House Appropriations Chair Ross Hunter, D-Medina, dedicates more new funding to education than either of the budget plans released earlier by the Senate Republicans or Gov. Inslee.
The $34.5 billion plan dedicates $1.9 billion in increased spending to K-12 education. That includes a big step toward meeting the 2018 deadline set by the state Supreme Court last year in the McCleary decision, which directed the Legislature to substantially boost school funding in order to pass constitutional muster.
Other highlights of the proposal include:
- Investments in public colleges and universities, targeting the science, technology, engineering and math courses critical to preparing students to succeed in the global economy.
- Expansion of early learning for 3- and 4-year-olds – and improved child care to broaden opportunities for the most vulnerable children.
- Extending health-care coverage to an additional 280,000 Washingtonians via the federally financed health reform championed by President Obama.
- Maintaining long-term and mental-health care, expanding child care and job-placement programs and keeping protections for the most vulnerable.
The plan calls for the closure of 15 tax exemptions and the extension of some existing taxes to help fund the almost $2 billion dollars for schools, including the closure of loopholes for oil refineries and the sales-tax exemptions for non-residents and janitorial services. The recent Senate proposal closed zero exemptions while creating an additional 15 loopholes.
“The McCleary decision is a game-changer,” said House Finance Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. “This proposal represents a fundamental change in the way the state does business.”
Currently the state has over 640 tax exemptions on the books that amount to tens of billions in foregone revenue every year. Recently, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee and the Citizen Commission on Tax Preferences have called for the closing or expiration of many of those exemptions.
“We started this session focused on amply funding our schools,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. “I’m proud of this budget – it represents a real commitment to meeting our paramount duty without devastating other vital state services.”
The budget will be considered by the Appropriations Committee in a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. in Hearing Room A in the John L. O’Brien Building.
PDF budget documents: