Governor proposes budget boosting spending to $46 billion for 2017-19 biennium, an $8.2 billion increase

Governor Jay Inslee’s “Bold Action Now” budget would take state spending to a new high: $46 billion.

The Washington Research Council writes:

According to the summary document, about $4.8 billion of the $8.2 billion total is policy level spending. Including the governor’s proposed revenue package ($4.4 billion in increased taxes), the projected ending fund balance for 2017–19 would be $385 million, and total reserves (including the rainy day fund) would be $1.7 billion. The proposal would also use some reserves. Also according to the governor’s office, 50.6 percent of NGFS+ spending in 2017–19 would go to public schools. 

The WRC post provides more detail, including this observation,

This is the budget Gov. Inslee would like to see. But the governor is required by law to propose a budget that balances within existing revenues—the Office of Financial Management tells me he will submit this “book 1” budget by Dec. 20. 

Expect that Book 1 budget to contain some controversial – and difficult – service reductions. 

The Associated Press reports,

Inslee said that his budget was the “start of a conversation” and that he looked forwarded to seeing ideas from the House and Senate. But he said that it is “not possible to fulfill the constitutional or moral obligations of the state of Washington without new revenue.”

As we noted yesterday, the conversation includes some significant GOP pushback.

The Seattle Times editorial board takes a look at teacher compensation, a key factor in the basic education funding debate. The editorial notes:

The economic researchers found the average teacher pay in Washington state — $66,000 for 10 months of work or the equivalent of $79,000 for an annual salary — is comparable to how much occupational and physical therapists, technical writers, insurance underwriters, architects, accountants and other jobs with similar skill requirements are paid. 

They also found classroom teachers in Washington earn slightly more than the national average teacher salary.

The editorialists conclude:

This week, the governor proposed a $4 billion tax increase, with most of it going to pay for higher teacher and administrator salaries and replacing local levy dollars. Many other leaders believe a combination of some new taxes and budget adjustments will accomplish the same goal. 

Whatever the approach, the target is clear.

At this point, weeks before the beginning of a difficult session, it’s not clear to us how much, really, is clear. But the coming conversation will be consequential.