House OK’s Budget Plan, Urges Senate to Negotiate

It’s budget time in Olympia, and with two very different spending plans on the table, hard compromises and long nights are on the legislative menu.  Dan Frizzell has that story.

As expected, lawmakers in the state House voted along party lines Friday afternoon to approve the two-year state budget introduced earlier this week by majority Democrats.  Dubbed a “families first” budget by supporters, the plan would put more than seven billion new dollars into K-12 schools over the next four years. It calls for a freeze on college tuition, puts three hundred fifty million into the mental health system, and the revenue plan to pay for it eliminates or reduces the unpopular B&O tax for four out of five Washington businesses. Here’s Democratic state Representative Timm Ormsby of Spokane, the head budget writer in the House, in an excerpt from his floor speech.

“This budget is big.  It’s several hundred pages long, full of legal phrases and numbers, but ultimately it is about people: families first. Whether they’re first graders in Yakima or freshmen at Easter Washington University, whether they’re homeless kids in Tacoma or our state troopers that protect our roads and protect us on this campus, this budget is about giving our kids and our grandkids a shot at success.”

The Senate, where Republicans have a one-vote majority, passed its own dream budget earlier this month. That GOP budget has come under fire for missing the balance point by about a billion dollars, and for hitting Washington taxpayers with a multi-billion dollar property tax hike.  So far they’ve rebuffed efforts by House Democrats to begin negotiations toward a bipartisan compromise, but with just three weeks left in the legislative session, Olympia-watchers are hoping they’ll come to the table soon. Reporting from Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.