Public, lawmakers split on state budget, taxes

With the Senate approving a no-new-taxes budget yesterday, negotiations can begin. We noted yesterday that’s there’s room for optimism as the chambers try to close the distance between them. Outside Olympia opinion is as divided as it is under the dome, according to a new Elway poll.

Participants had the choice of two approaches to boost education spending: Don’t raise taxes, but face potential cuts to existing state programs and services, or raise taxes and spare programs and services.

A slight lead went to no new taxes with 48 percent in favor. Raising taxes was close behind with 43 percent approval.

Pollster Stuart Elway identifies a problem.

“Voters would prefer to fund education and balance the budget with existing revenue, but they are open to persuasion on tax increases,” according to the analysis by Stewart [sic] Elway . “Not surprisingly, the taxes most favored are those deemed most likely to be paid by other people. A bigger problem: the tax proposals most voters support won’t produce enough revenue.”

Austin Jenkins with the NW News Network reports that tax questions are hanging up lawmakers even before negotiations begin.

…Republicans have said they don’t want to negotiate with the Democrats in the House until the Democrats in the House pass the tax package that funds a bunch of their budget.

The Democrats are saying that’s not a reasonable or fair expectation. They have no intention of taking a tax vote until the final budget deal.

One of the key sticking points in a budget resolution this year is Initiative 1351, the voter-approved class size reduction measure with a hefty $4.7 billion 4-year price tag. The Senate addressed that yesterday, as the AP budget story explains.

Before taking a final vote on the Senate plan, the chamber approved a bill to make changes on Initiative 1351, which reduced class sizes for all grades. The cost to pay for the measure was in the billions, and the Senate bill only pays for reductions for kindergarten through third grade. That change would go to voters for their approval or rejection.

While the 1351 vote fell largely along partisan lines, there are few members of either party in Olympia who believe funding can be found for the measure. (More on this at Crosscut.)

The chambers are also divided on funding the collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the governor. The House funds them; the Senate does not. Discussion here from critics and supporters of the agreements.

Plenty to chew on, with the clock winding down on the regular session.