The single most important piece of policy we work on in Olympia is the state two-year budget. This year’s proposal in the House is over $44 billion. It is a big and serious undertaking, and the detail-oriented hard work on the budget kicks into high gear this week.
At the beginning of the week, the House Democrats released our budget for the 2017-19 biennium. The General Operating budget, HB 1067, is a 500-page document that funds everything from schools to mental health care to fish hatcheries, and I am busy with the details in the Appropriations Committee in preparation for a floor vote later this week. There are links to all the budget documents at the bottom of this email.
We are committed to fully funding public education as mandated by the Supreme Court McCleary decision. As a reminder, the McCleary decision is a Supreme Court order to Washington state requiring adherence to the state’s constitutional paramount duty to fully fund education. This includes transportation, maintenance and operations, and compensation. To see some of the information we’re using to make our decisions, please see this presentation on school funding prepared for the Appropriations Committee by nonpartisan legislative staff. The Court has said the state relies too heavily on local levy dollars that should be provided by state tax funds.
The State Senate released their budget last week, SB 5048, and there are some marked differences in the proposals. While the Senate Republicans agreed that more money is necessary to comply with McCleary, they propose to fund the increase with large cuts to social services and a significant property tax increase on homeowners in the Puget Sound. Instead of further burdening lower and middle class Washingtonians, the Democratic budget proposes new progressive revenue mechanisms, including a capital gains tax and a reformed real estate excise tax on homes over $1 million. You can read more about our revenue package here and here.
So what’s next? Now that both chambers have introduced budget and revenue plans, both sides will start negotiating a compromise solution to send to the Governor. We hope to be done by April 23rd. This is a difficult and tight timeline for negotiating a $44.6 billion budget.
You can find all the budget documents on the legislative website:
We are also working on a Transportation budget and a Capital budget. The House Capital budget will be released next week.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and for your interest in the work the legislature does. I hope the links in this email are helpful, if you want to comb through the details.