Senate passes budget $43 billion biennial budget along party lines; next move belongs to the House

 On a 25-24 vote, the state Senate last night passed a budget. Reporting for the Associated Press, Rachel La Corte writes,

The Senate on Friday passed a $43 billion two-year state budget proposal that relies, in part, on a statewide property tax earmarked for education, while also making cuts to some social services.

The spending plan, which cleared the Republican-led Senate on a 25-24 vote after a multi-hour, middle-of-the-night debate, would raise property taxes for some, while lowering taxes for others in the state. House Democrats are set to release and pass their own budget proposal next week, and then both chambers will begin the work of negotiating a final compromise that must satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding.

This concludes the first act of the three-act play. The second act, House passage of its budget should close next week. Then we anticipate an extended third act during which the parties and chambers reconcile their competing plans. 

The AP reports,

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler called the budget plan “a great starting point.”

“This budget makes an unprecedented investment in K-12, despite what some would say,” he said.

Democrats argued the budget did not go far enough on education, and Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said that the plan “does not reflect our values.”

The education funding plan relies heavily on a property tax swap, explained this way by AP.

Under a bill that previously passed the Senate — and which would be subject to voters’ approval in November — the new property tax rate proposed by Republicans would replace local school levies with a statewide uniform rate dedicated for schools. It would be transitioned in starting next year, but would not be fully implemented until Jan. 1, 2019.

The plan would raise the local school levy in some places, such as Seattle, and decrease it in others, though in the current budget plan Republicans lowered the tax rate to $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed value from the $1.80 originally proposed.

In its weekly McCleary roundup, the Seattle Times reports on rollout of and reactions to the Senate budget, as well as next steps.

The good news for schools: The proposal adds $1.8 billion to K-12 education, and Republican leadership said a new statewide property tax would lower rates for 83 percent of taxpayers, according to The Seattle Times.

The reality: The proposal is pretty much dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled House, in part because a statewide tax would raise rates for some homeowners, especially those in the Seattle area. Democrats would rather tap new sources of state revenue, such as a possible capital-gains tax or carbon pricing, to raise more dollars for schools.

The Republicans steered clear of setting any new taxes and rely on higher revenue from existing taxes, transfers from other state accounts and cuts to some government programs to raise additional money for schools.

 Our earlier reports on the Senate budget can be found here, here, and here.