Legislature Approves Operating Budget, Funds Education, Avoids Shutdown

It was a full day Friday as lawmakers worked to beat the midnight clock and passed a $43.7 billion dollar budget to keep state government operating for the next two years.The budget averts a government shutdown and pours billions of new dollars into K-12 schools. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the two year operating budget Friday night as the fiscal year came to a close.

We have two audio reports on this story. First, we hear from John Sattgast with Washington House Republicans:

Now here is Dan Frizzell from the Washington State House Democratic Caucus:

Transcripts of each story and a statement from the Governor are below:

SATTGAST: The new budget will pump an additional $7.3 billion dollars into K-12 education over the next four years. Granger Representative Bruce Chandler is the House Republican’s lead budget negotiator.

CHANDLER: “Certainly, for the first time in 30 years, the commitment has been made by this body to not only make education the paramount duty of the state, but to make it the top priority.”

SATTGAST: An agreement was reached Wednesday after Republican and Democratic lawmakers struggled to find the right solution to address the state Supreme Court’s McCleary requirements. Under the new education funding plan, teachers will get substantial salary increases and beginning teacher pay will start at $40 thousand dollars a year. Vancouver Republican Representative Paul Harris was among the negotiators on the McCleary Work Group.

HARRIS: “This bill has something for every student, those who have difficulty learning, those that have special needs. This bill will impact every classroom, every student.”

SATTGAST: Some lawmakers, including 12th District Representative Cary Condotta, expressed concern, however, about a 13 percent growth in state spending and new tax increases.

CONDOTTA: “It’s still a substantial increase in taxes. It’s a major property tax increase regardless of who pays it. The other side got what they wanted. We may have got a better policy. But they got the money.”

SATTGAST: The budget was sent to the governor who signed the measure before the end of the state’s fiscal cycle at midnight Friday. John Sattgast, Olympia.

FRIZZELL: When state legislators finally began bringing long-delayed pieces of major legislation to the House and Senate floors Friday morning, the partisan rancor that characterized much of the last 180 days seemed to evaporate. Bill after bill quickly fell into place, and by the end of the day Governor Jay Inslee had signed a new state budget and a tax bill that will make the record seven-point-three billion in new education spending possible.

Lawmakers are confident that the 43-point-five-billion-dollar spending plan will satisfy the state Supreme Court’s order in the 2012 McCleary ruling that the Legislature had to devise a way to provide the revenue to fully fund Washington’s public schools.  House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, a Democrat from Covington, was a lead on the House budget negotiating team.

SULLIVAN: “The budget we passed today is a great success for the state of Washington. We invest seven-point-three-billion over the next four years in quality programs to help students to be successful, but we also invested in mental health, in early learning opportunities for our younger students, in higher ed . . . some really good things that move the state forward for the next four years.” [:21]

FRIZZELL: Before and after Inslee signed the budget act, lawmakers stayed busy passing bills that had been held up until the last few days, including paid sick and family leave, and the creation of a new state agency, the department of children, youth, and families. Still to come are a two-year construction budget and a plan to revamp, once again, Washington’s complex water laws. In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.

Gov. Inslee’s statement:

“I am proud to sign a historic budget that fully funds our schools for the first time in more than 30 years,” Inslee said. “This budget, at long last, meets our constitutional obligations to fully fund basic education, and addresses the responsibilities we have under the McCleary decision to equitably fund our schools.”

The governor was joined by a bipartisan group of legislative leaders from the House and Senate.

June 30 is the last day of the fiscal year. Because legislators had not yet approved a new operating budget, state agencies have had to prepare contingency plans in case of a government shutdown. The budget Inslee signed late Friday night ensured state government operations funding by the operating budget can continue.

Unfortunately, at this time, it is unclear whether the Legislature will approve a full capital budget, meaning some state workers will be temporarily laid off.

In addition to funding for schools, the new operating budget also has a number of provisions that help families and workers while strengthening Washington’s mental health system.

The final budget funds significant changes to integrate the state’s mental and physical health systems. It also funds collective bargaining agreements to provide pay raises for hard-working state employees, and protects funding for vital services including health care, programs for people with disabilities, services for vulnerable seniors and job training for the under-skilled.

“This budget is a great example of bipartisan cooperation. It really shows what can be done when we work together,” Inslee said.

Details on the 2017-19 biennial budget can be found here.