Dueling budget plans in place; House considers tax options. Extended session expected.

Our newsletter today led with discussion of the budget passed by the House last Friday. (To receive our weekly newsletter, sign up here.) We also provided summaries and links to analysis comparing the House and Senate budget proposals. Overall, the House spends about $1.5 billion more than the Senate and relies on $3 billion in new and increased taxes.

Although the House Finance committee held a public hearing this morning on the proposed tax legislation and may pass the measure out of committee later this week, it’s unclear when or whether the legislation will get a floor vote. As we wrote in the newsletter,   

Although both the House and Senate have now adopted budgets, Senate leaders have said they do not intend to begin negotiations until the House passes its revenue plan. House leaders have said they’ll pass the revenue package after the chambers agree on spending. So, for now, an impasse.

In the Seattle Times, Joseph O’Sullivan reports much of the process of reconciling the budget differences will occur outside the limelight.

As Washington state lawmakers wrestle over how to provide court-ordered education funding, much of the solution will come together in backroom negotiations shielded from the public’s eyes.

And while the public is allowed to seek records such as emails and calendars of other state officials and the governor, lawmakers have largely exempted themselves from public-disclosure laws.

 Nonetheless, they will have the benefit of significant public input, including that of the editorial pages of the state’s major newspapers. Here’s a sampling.

The Seattle Times editorial board thinks the elements of a compromise can be found in the budget proposals passed by the two chambers. And they outline their likes and dislikes. 

Greg Jayne, the opinion editor of the Columbian, offers a good, big-picture perspective on the education debate.

But as lawmakers attempt once again this year to bring some finality to the [school funding] debate, it is notable that one entity just might be able to cut through the noise. That entity is the Washington Roundtable, a think tank of sorts made up of senior executives from many of the state’s most notable companies. While some — particularly teachers’ unions — are likely to suggest that the roundtable is merely adding to the noise, the roundtable has some ideas that are worth consideration; to paraphrase an old TV commercial, when Microsoft or Boeing or Starbucks speak, people listen.

Last year, the Washington Roundtable released a report from The Boston Consulting Group that included some ear-catching numbers. You know, things like Washington is expected to have 740,000 job openings over the next five years — a rate that is nearly three times the expected national average.

He notes that how Washington funds schools contributes to a talent shortage.

The estimate is that more than 90 percent of the people who fill career positions will have some sort of college education or professional credential. You won’t need that Ph.D. in women’s studies, but you just might need to be a licensed electrician.

“I think a lot of times, people look at the roundtable and think we’re those who believe everybody needs a four-year degree,” roundtable president Steve Mullin said during a recent meeting with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. “We’re working hard to dispel that myth.”

Because of that, leaders emphasize another finding of the study: Only 31 percent of high school students in the state go on to build professional credentials by the age of 26. In other words, Washington is not adequately preparing students for the jobs that are opening up. “We’re No. 2 (among states) in reliance upon imported talent,” Mullin said.

Here’s how funding contributes to the problem, Jayne writes.

For years, Washington, along with most other states, has based funding upon the professionals in a particular school building. And that creates inequities…

The Washington Roundtable recommends funding based upon the actual students in a school and the number of those who require additional help by virtue of being English learners or being homeless or having conditions that hamper their ability to learn.

That, of course, is the simplistic explanation, but it is one that has been embraced by the Republican-controlled Senate in its budget proposal. And it is one that makes a lot of sense.

 It makes sense to us, too. 

The Tri-City Herald editorial board also weighs in on the budget proposals. And like the Seattle Times, they have their own set of likes and dislikes.

The editorial board for the Olympian also has its suggestions.

If we can’t help students from impoverished homes to complete high school and more, we are further locking them into intergenerational poverty.

In some ways, the Senate budget addresses this more directly. It provides a base amount for each K-12 student and adds more, depending on a student’s learning needs and challenges. Schools would get extra money for students who are from economically disadvantaged households, students who are gifted, students who speak English as a second language, and students who are developmentally disabled. 

Unfortunately, the GOP model fails to deliver enough money…

They conclude, though, there’s room for agreement.
There is middle ground. If partisans step back and see this forest for the trees, they can find it.
Eventually, we suppose, they will. But probably not as quickly as many of us would like.