Category Archives: Budget Priorities

2015: Best year for students and teachers in decades

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, vice chair of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee answers the question, “What have lawmakers done for students this year?”

Senate education budget facts:

  • Greatest new investment in K-12 of any budget in state history.
  • 47 percent of the budget dedicated to K-12 education — a share not seen since the 1980s.
  • New spending 4:1 for education (Senate budget v2.0)
    • Follows 30 years when education was put behind growth in non-education spending by a 2:1 margin over education.
  • Bipartisan efforts invest in all-day kindergarten, reduces class size in kindergarten through 3rd grade and fully funds maintenance supplies and operation costs.
  • $2.7 billion total proposed spending increase for K-12 education, up from $15.3 billion in 2013-15 to $18 billion in 2015-17 – an 18% increase.
  • $440 million in additional teacher pay and benefits; $230 million for voter-approved teacher COLAs and $210 million for pension benefits.
  • Builds over 2,100 classrooms to lower class size for K-3 grades
  • Additional $1.3 billion toward basic education addressing the McCleary court decision.
  • Per-pupil funding will see an overall 33% increase.
  • This represents a fundamental shift in priorities not seen in 30 years since the Majority Coalition Caucus started governing in the Senate in 2013.

Education Funding Facts:

Year K-12 Funding Changes COLA?
2009-11 $340 million CUT No
2011-13 $652 million (below maintenance level) No
2013-15 $1.6 billion increase No
2015-17 (proposed) $2.7 billion increase Yes

Senate delivers ‘clean sweep’ on budget, transportation and tuition cuts

Majority leader: ‘Special session needs to end by May 15’

OLYMPIA… Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, today marked the end of the Legislature’s regular session with a long list of major legislation passed by the Senate including a no-new-taxes budget, bipartisan transportation package, college-tuition cuts, public-safety measures, addressed critical mental health issues and a capital budget that builds 2,100 classrooms to lower class size from kindergarten through third grade.

“The Senate delivered on every major issue this session,” said Schoesler, “It’s a ‘clean sweep’ on keeping our promise to prioritize education, bring tax relief to middle-class families and live within our means with $3 billion in added revenue.”

Schoesler added the Senate had done its job and passed all the bills necessary to implement a new state operating budget.

“We’re disappointed in the delay tactics by House Democrats who have yet to pass a complete operating budget, or act on a transportation package,” said Schoesler. “We can’t negotiate with ‘phantom’ money and the House Democrats have yet to pass $1.5 billion in added taxes to cover their spending wish list. In addition, we have a broken transportation system that desperately needs reforms and major improvements to our roads and bridges – and still, no action from the House majority.”

Now that Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to continue budget negotiations, Schoesler said lawmakers need to be responsive to a critical May 15 deadline for the state’s school districts.

“Delay is bad enough,” said Schoesler. “School districts face a budget-planning deadline of May 15, and without a specific appropriation, they must send out pink slips to teachers and other employees. They also can’t start hiring the new teachers both chambers have agreed to fund. We’re hugely increasing education funding and these delays put schools, teachers and important programs in limbo.”

Schoesler added that members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus would be back in Olympia Monday. “Our committee chairs are planning work sessions and committee hearings to keep momentum going with the goal of finishing budget negotiations before the May 15 deadline,” Schoesler said.

Since the Senate has passed a complete operating budget and bipartisan transportation package, Schoesler said the governor’s “ultimatum on raising taxes” has not been helpful to budget-negotiation efforts. “Governor Inslee has given the Legislature an ultimatum to pass the largest tax increase in state history or we don’t get a budget deal. This threat of a D.C. style government shutdown doesn’t belong in this Washington,” said Schoesler.

Schoesler noted the Senate’s many accomplishments on behalf of families across Washington, as part of or in addition to its viable operating budget and bipartisan transportation package, including:

Full funding of K-12 education – 47 percent of the Senate budget is dedicated to basic education. As a percentage of the budget, it hasn’t been that high since Gov. John Spellman was in office (1981-85). The Senate budget adds $1.3 billion for K-12 schools, addressing the 2012 McCleary court decision and providing teacher cost-of-living pay raises.

First tuition reduction in over 40 years – The Senate budget, coupled with its College Affordability Program legislation (Senate Bill 5954), would cut college tuition at four-year institutions by an average of 25 percent, helping 200,000 students and saving families over $300 million through lower college costs.

A capital budget that builds 2,100 classrooms – This complements the Senate operating-budget priority on lowering class sizes for K-3 grades (the House capital budget does not).

Tougher drunken-driving law – 4th DUI in 10 years is now charged as a felony, meaning state prison instead of county jail.

Energy and carbon reduction plan – The Senate led the way on clean energy with passage of Senate Bill 5735, a practical carbon-reduction plan. This measure does not require the large and damaging tax increases favored by the governor. No action was taken in the House.

Oil-train safety – Senate Bill 5057 provides equipment and advance notification to emergency agencies.

Reconciled medical marijuana system with recreational market – Senate Bill 5052 will protect patients and add safeguards for kids.

Telemedicine – Senate Bill 5175 expands use of interactive technology to give rural areas more access to health care.

Mental health – Senate Bill 5269, known as ‘Joel’s Law’ to give families more options to protect loved ones dealing with mental illness.

Senior citizen property-tax exemption – Senate Bill 5186 helps 100,000 low-income seniors stay in their homes.

Government accountability – One of the country’s most ambitious state-government quality-assurance agendas passed with bipartisan support. SB 5737 gives state government the accountability tools it needs to improve quality and measure savings.

“We’re at the table and ready to negotiate a pro-education, no-new-taxes budget that allows us to honor our commitment to the taxpayers and school districts of this state,” Schoesler said.


Senate and House leaders meet to discuss budget negotiations

OLYMPIA…As the 2015 legislative session nears the end of its 105 day limit, Senate Majority Coalition budget negotiators are reaching across the aisle and Rotunda to end on time and on budget. The Senate has passed a complete budget. The House has passed a $39 billion spending plan. This is an important difference between the chambers that must be reconciled before the April 26 deadline.

“We are doing everything we can to work with our House counterparts,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, “Our priorities are very similar but we have a different approach that we are working together to address. The people of Washington should know that the Senate is doing everything we can to ensure we adjourn on time and on budget with no new taxes.”

Schoesler added the Senate majority’s budget is balanced over 4 years and includes no new taxes. “We believe the $3 billion of additional projected revenue coming to the state is enough to fully fund schools, prioritize higher education and preserve essential services,” Schoesler said. The House budget increases spending by 15 percent and includes a $1.5 billion tax increase that has yet to be approved by that chamber.

Both budgets spend nearly identical amounts of marijuana revenue — $295 million in the Senate plan and $270 million in the House plan.

“We need to have open and honest discussions if we are going to find a compromise that works for the state of Washington,” said Sen. John Braun, vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, “I believe that people in our state expect us to meet our constitutional deadline of 105 days to finish the budget. Our state’s budget is growing at over 8 percent without a tax increase, and that is more than sufficient to fund the real priorities of state government.”

Majority Leader: We have the votes to pass a no-new-taxes budget

OLYMPIA… Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released this statement in advance of passage of a 2015-17 operating budget by members of the state Senate:

“We have the votes to pass a no-new-taxes budget that fully funds K-12 education and offers college students and their families the first tuition cut in at least a generation.

“It’s time to start focusing on solutions that get results. The Senate budget represents a major shift in priorities and directs new spending toward education at a level not seen in 30 years. We ask the Senate minority Democrats to join us in making the funding solution to K-12 and teacher compensation a reality.

“The people want us to reduce class size, so we’re building 2,200 more classrooms for kindergarten through third grade. Teachers deserve to know they’re valued, so we’re giving them a long overdue cost of living adjustment. Families and students want real relief from skyrocketing tuition costs, so we’re cutting the cost of tuition by 25 percent. Rather than just put more money into State Need Grants, we decided the best form of financial aid is to reduce the need and help more students realize their college dreams – debt free.

“Our Senate majority made a promise to live within our means and state revenue is up by $3 billion. Families are experiencing the double squeeze of higher energy and college costs. We’re still in a fragile economic recovery with high unemployment in many parts of the state. Now is not the time to raise taxes on families and employers.

“An added $3 billion is plenty to meet the challenges we face in education and mental health. We’re ready to negotiate a pro-education, no-new-taxes budget that allows us to finish this legislative session on time.”

The SMART Act: Measuring outputs, not just inputs

Much of the public discussion and advocacy surrounding the budget writing process often tends to focus on inputs, or the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on a particular program. The Legislature has an equally important duty to study the outputs, or the actual results of the way they spend taxpayer dollars. Accountability and transparency are critical to gaining the respect and trust of the public.

Click here to read Windows Into the Budget: The SMART Act…

Senate budget leader responds to governor’s tax plan

Responding to the operating budget proposal released by the governor Thursday morning, Sen. Andy Hill, the Senate’s chief budget writer and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, issued this response:

“The governor’s contribution to the upcoming budget process features a massive tax increase on residents and small businesses. Investing in student achievement and providing essential services should not depend on risky tax schemes that threaten our economy. Educating our children, caring for those in need and supporting our local economy demands thoughtful, bipartisan budget leadership. Tax increases should be the last resort, not the first response.

“The governor proposes an unbalanced budget, ignoring Washington’s strong four-year balanced budget requirement that holds lawmakers accountable. Instead of prioritizing spending and living within our means the governor would rather rewrite the rules in order to increase state spending by more than $5 billion.

“I’m confident in the Legislature’s ability to work together toward a bipartisan solution that puts children first, supports our most vulnerable and protects working families.”