As budget talks stall, Union-Bulletin says “boosting taxes isn’t the answer,” state workers urge Legislature to fund contracts

There’s still no sign of a budget deal, but there’s no shortage of advice for lawmakers in the final days of the regular session.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial board offers some clear counsel:

To this point, a significant number of lawmakers (mostly Democrats) are stubbornly clinging to the belief they won’t have to enact a “levy swap,” a statewide property tax that replaces much of the current local voter-approved school levy taxes now used by most school districts to supplement basic education costs.

Instead, these lawmakers hope that new taxes can be put in place that will raise enough money to cover the cost of basic education to the satisfaction of the state Supreme Court…

… the prudent approach — if raising taxes significantly is to be avoided — is to enact a “levy swap.”…

Enacting a “levy swap” would result in some property owners to pay higher taxes — cities with high property values such Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Island — while others will pay less. Property assessments would go down in places with lower property values, generally the rural and more economically challenged parts of the state.

This approach is equitable. Those who can most afford to pay will bear the greatest burden while every school in the state would have the funds to pay for basic education costs.

Reporting for the NW News Network, Austin Jenkins writes that, unsurprisingly, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the McCleary case isn’t happy with lawmakers.

Washington state Senate Republicans and House Democrats are at loggerheads over how to fund schools. Republicans want to replace local school levies with a new state property tax levy. Democrats want a new capital gains tax to generate more money for schools.

Tom Ahearne, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the McCleary school funding case, said neither plan will create an amply funded K-12 system. 

Also unhappy are state workers who rallied today to urge the Legislature to fund the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with the governor.

Washington state workers are staging demonstrations Wednesday to urge the Legislature to approve their new two-year labor contracts.

Statewide, employees at about 150 job sites plan to demonstrate at noon, according to the Washington Federation of State Employees.

Union spokesman Tim Welch said employees will stress the importance of including money for the labor contracts in the new two-year budget the Legislature approves this year…

State Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, has said Senate leaders didn’t include money for the state worker contracts in their budget partly out of frustration with how the contracts are negotiated. Unions negotiate the labor agreements with the governor’s budget office, leaving the Legislature out of the loop. 

Lawmakers can approve or reject each of the contracts in their entirety, but they can’t renegotiate the contract details as they write their budget.

The regular session of the Legislature officially comes to an end Sunday, April 23. Most expect lawmakers will leave Olympia Friday and come back for the (first?) special session next week. Meanwhile, we expect they’ll continue to receive a lot of advice, solicited and unsolicited.