Governor and legislative leaders say no special session just yet; need to reach agreement on school funding plan first

Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders met for about an hour yesterday to discuss compliance with the state Supreme Court’s order on full state funding of basic education. Inslee spoke to the press briefly following the meeting (TVW covered the press conference.) The court last week fined the state $100,000 per day for failing to comply with what’s known as the McCleary decision

As the Seattle Times reports, the meeting was inconclusive

The first-term Democratic governor said his office and lawmakers would “work vigorously to tee up a solution” that the Legislature could then approve, perhaps in a brief special session before the end of the year. More meetings are scheduled this week.

Republican lawmakers agreed further talks are needed before considering a special session.

Teacher compensation and local levy reform continue to divide legislators, with no easy resolution in sight.

“This is a big, thorny, intricate problem,” said David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management.

The governor pegs the cost of McCleary compliance at $3 billion a biennium. 

But Inslee, who pushed unsuccessfully for a capital-gains tax in the recent legislative session, said getting that extra money will either require “spectacular revenue growth” or “some additional revenue source.”

One idea that keeps resurfacing is a “levy swap” that would have the state increase its property tax levy while reducing local levies. 

Even the mechanics of paying the fine are elusive.

But that fine is largely symbolic at this point, since the money cannot be moved to the new account until the Legislature votes to do so.

David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said, “We take the court’s sanctions very seriously.” But after conferring with the state Attorney General’s Office, he said, the governor concluded legislation is required before such a segregated account can be created. 

As Crosscut reports, the governor would like to see action before the 2016 session. 

Inslee said he would prefer legislators develop plans that could satisfy the court before the 2016 session of the Legislature begins next year. The lawmakers could find ways to work out agreement on their next steps without convening a new session, he said, and then meet briefly in Olympia for a special session of just one day to adopt plans that would satisfy the court.

More meetings are anticipated this week.