OLYMPIA – House Democrats unveiled their 2015-17 supplemental operating budget plan on Monday – a budget that will invest $467 million to meet critical needs of the state like addressing the teacher shortage crisis, continuing to fix the mental health system, helping the homeless, and improving the lives of foster kids.
“This isn’t a year to sit on our hands—we have to do things,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish), chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “Our budget helps one million kids in our public schools, fixes a broken mental health system and gives relief to kids, veterans and families who are homeless.”
Key highlights of the House Democratic budget proposal:
- $99 million to recruit and retain K-12 public school staff.
- $47 million to address the staffing and safety issues at mental health state hospitals.
- $60 million for homeless programs.
- $6 million to improve the foster care system.
“We’ve said all along that this session is about education,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington). “Our state needs more teachers and classrooms. We also need to close the Opportunity Gap so that all students have an opportunity to be successful. Hungry kids need nutritious meals so they can learn. And homeless kids need a secure place to sleep at night. These are the priorities in our budget proposal.”
The Legislature has approved $4.2 billion in new K-12 investments since 2013 according to nonpartisan House committee staff. This budget proposal will move the state closer to the goal of fully funding basic education with the educator recruitment and retention package and the new K-12 school construction investments.
The House budget proposal pays for these investments largely from the state’s “rainy day fund” (the Budget Stabilization Account), a resource that’s available to address statewide emergencies, and by closing six costly, outdated tax breaks.
“Our plan pays for more teachers by closing a small handful of tax breaks that have been used to benefit companies like big, international investment firms and out of state drug wholesalers,” said Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes), chair of the House Finance Committee. “These six tax breaks, of the nearly 700 tax breaks on the books, are outdated and no longer benefit the industries they were intended for. Corporations aren’t entitled to their tax breaks, but our kids are entitled to an education.”
The Senate, while under Republican control, voted to close tax loopholes in 2014 and 2015 to reach a balanced budget agreement that meets the needs of the state.
The proposal will have a public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee today at 3:30. It is scheduled for committee executive session on Tuesday. A floor vote of the entire House is scheduled for Thursday.