Tag Archives: K-12 Education

2014 Session Begins with high hopes, challenges

Today began the 60-day legislative session for 2014, and it also marks the first session we’ve seen in a long time that is beginning without a deficit to reconcile. That’s due to the balanced, reform-focused budget proposed and passed by the Majority Coalition Caucus in 2013. Last year we promised to work on creating jobs, improving education and adopting sustainable budgets and we’ve done just that.

But there is more to be done. Our state’s economy has been slow to improve post-recession and we need to continue finding ways to get people back to work. Last year we put about a billion dollars into K-12 education; an unprecedented amount yes, but not nearly enough according to the Washington State Supreme Court. We’ve got our work cut out for us in the area of education again this year. Continue reading

Revenue forecast shows $2 billion more

$2 billion moreOn Wednesday, March 20, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced we will have nearly two billion additional dollars for the 2013-15 operating budget. This news has been extremely well-received and has strengthened the resolve of the Majority Coalition Caucus to not raise your taxes. Despite reports to the contrary, we are close to reaching a budget compromise that will provide more funding for higher education as well as significantly fund K-12 education to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

Here in Olympia, the constant talk of budget cuts has all but evaporated, and we are able to start reprioritizing your tax dollars to focus on what matters most. Some pet programs may not receive the increases they would like, but we are no longer taking money away from vital programs and services. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the 2013-15 budget as it is made public.

Click here to read the full Olympia Report for March 26, 2013.

Reforms, restraint in new state budget earn my support

The state Senate voted tonight to adopt a state operating budget for 2011-13, ending months of negotiation that helped push the Legislature into a 30-day special session. I joined a bipartisan majority in support of the spending plan, saying it offers a responsible combination of reforms and spending discipline that will help put state government back on solid financial ground.

I remember the last time the Legislature passed a budget that spent less than the state expected to take in – that was 1997. This budget comes in about 350 million dollars less than the anticipated revenue, and leaves more than 700 million dollars in reserve. Hopefully that will be enough to weather any more revenue reductions as we go through this year.

No one figured this budget would include tax increases, thanks to the limit reinstated by the voters several months ago, but it also doesn’t include fees that were rumored earlier this session: no water fees, no agricultural fees, no fees for habitat or forest protection. I have to believe the bipartisan approach the Senate took to this budget had a lot to do with holding the line in those areas.

Funding for K-12 schools will climb by $356 million, with the level of funding per pupil going up as well. Schools will have more discretion regarding how they spend state money, and funding for levy equalization will be preserved, benefiting two-thirds of Washington school districts.

Funding for county agricultural fairs will remain whole and while conservation districts will see a drop in funding, the budget agreement also contains a breakthrough related to water management: For the first time, funding for the Department of Ecology will be tied to its performance on water-right processing.

Here’s a list of reforms in other areas of government that make the budget package good for taxpayers, including:

• workers’ compensation reform, which benefits both employers and workers;
• caps and controls on the Basic Health Plan and “disability lifeline”;
• steps to reduce rampant abuse of electronic benefit-transfer cards;
• more flexibility concerning Medicaid spending, which constitutes a large part of state spending;
• an emphasis on contracting services out through the creation of a new enterprise-services agency; and
• less reliance on transfers from other funds, one-time cash infusions or budget gimmicks, such as “securitizing” tobacco settlement money.

Today was the final day of the special session. The new budget, which passed 34-13 in the Senate, will take effect July 1.