The antemortem continues on the strange, not-quite-end of the legislative session.
- Yes, the state has a two-year operating budget and the shutdown was avoided.
- Yes, lawmakers passed an historic and important revenue package to fund long overdue transportation improvements.
- Yes, lawmakers made unprecedented increases in spending for K-12 education and an unprecedented tuition decrease for the state’s colleges and universities.
- And we’re getting more information about new taxes and taxes that didn’t happen.
But, the third special session lives on, with important work yet to be done.
The adopted budget has a $2 billion hole in it as a result of the Senate’s failure to postpone the Initiative 1351 class size reduction mandate. Funding I-1351 was never a part of any budget considered by the governor or lawmakers, but became linked to an unrelated graduation requirements. The governor wants lawmakers to plug the hole quickly.
“I believe it is important for the Legislature to find a solution that results in a balanced budget sooner rather than later,” he said in a statement. “We are so close. I encourage legislators to complete their work.”
… while lawmakers aren’t required to fix that problem immediately, David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management, said he hoped they would do so in the next week or so.
More on the flap in the Spokesman-Review (also here), the Olympian, and a tough editorial in The News Tribune.
Meanwhile, the early appraisals of the adopted budget are coming in.
- Gov. Inslee considers it a great budget.
- Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is not pleased.
- The editorial board of the Olympian is relieved and sees a lot of good in the budget.
- The Spokesman-Review editorial board says it will move Washington forward.
The tuition cuts get positive reviews here and here.
With the lingering uncertainty, all evaluations of the budget must be considered tentative and premature. For them to hold, I-1351 must be amended. House Appropriations chair Ross Hunter offers his initial take on where things stand.
The Senate needs to pass the bill we sent over that delays implementation of I-1351 for 4 years.
Regarding the assessment linkage,
Surely some reasonable compromise can be reached over the next few days.
And, on transportation, he notes,
The House cannot pass the spending plan for the transportation package, even though we had a strong vote for the revenue part of it until the Senate finishes their work and sends the bill over. I don’t think the transportation plan is especially contentious, but it seems caught up in the fight…These bills need to pass in the next week or so to ensure that work continues.
Perhaps after the holiday weekend, lawmakers can reconvene and quickly finish that which they left unfinished. It’s time.