Senate Republicans release budget; no tax increases

The Senate Republicans today released their 2015-17 budget proposal (highlights here). TVW has the press conference here. As expected, the Senate leadership proposes no new tax increases. They describe their budget this way:

Students, teachers and parents would see significant funding increases for the state’s public schools while in-state tuition would be reduced for the first time since at least the 1970’s without raising taxes under Senator Andy Hill’s budget proposal released Tuesday.

“We crafted this budget  to prioritize education, protect our most vulnerable citizens and live within the state’s means,”said Hill,of Redmond, who has served as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee since 2013.

“When Washington taxpayers see the state is taking in an additional $3 billion under the existing tax system, they believe that’s enough for us to provide the services residents want and deserve.”

The Associated Press reports:

The Senate proposal looks to transfer about $375 million from more than a dozen different accounts to the state’s general fund. An additional $296 million will come from permanently shifting the distribution of the marijuana taxes — which currently go to health programs, among others — to education.

The plan also seeks to amend a voter-approved initiative to reduce class sizes and ask voters whether they agree with the change through a referendum.

On the key budget issue of the session – education funding – AP also reports:

The budget proposal released Tuesday by Washington Senate Republicans indicates the Legislature’s two chambers may not be very far apart on their plans to put new dollars into education.

Both the Senate budget and the House budget, which was released Friday, put significant new money into basic education, as ordered by the Washington Supreme Court in the McCleary decision, give college students and their parents a break and help Washington State University get started building a new medical school. The budgets also give public school teachers a raise and delay fulfilling the voters’ request to shrink class sizes at every grade level.

The two chambers differ significantly in their approach to the negotiated collective bargaining agreement for state employees, reports Melissa Santos.

The Republican-controlled state Senate is proposing a budget that would reject the labor contracts Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office has already negotiated with state workers…Senate Republicans are looking to take a different approach: giving every state worker a flat $1,000 raise for each of the next two years. That plan will save about $75 million in the state’s 2015-17 budget, Senate budget writer Andy Hill said Tuesday.

More here from the Washington Research Council.

Before the Senate press conference, Austin Jenkins wrote a post on the Northwest News Network site headlined Budget Fight Looms in Washington Legislature.

Sounds about right.