Weekend agreement on budget and transportation package marks successful conclusion to long legislative session

Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders broke through the logjam to reach agreement on the state’s operating 2015-17 operating budget and the first comprehensive transportation package in a decade. To us, that looks like a remarkably productive weekend. With a deadline looming, negotiators made the compromises necessary to put the interests of the state first. While all of the details have yet to be released, the basic elements of the agreements are clear.

The governor’s statement on the operating budget provides highlights and statements from legislative leaders.

Outline of the bipartisan agreement on 2015–17 operating budget

  • Invests about $1.3 billion in K-12 basic education to address growing school needs, meets the state’s constitutional obligations, expands access to full-day kindergarten and decreases class sizes in grades K-3.
  • Reduces the cost of tuition at the state’s four-year colleges and universities and two-year community colleges, and increases funding for College Bound scholarships. 
  • Makes a major investment in early learning, including Early Start and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
  • Increases funding for state parks.
  • Fully funds collective bargaining agreements for state employees and home care worker contracts and retirement benefits.
  • Funds the Initiative 732 cost-of-living raise for teachers, plus funds for additional teacher compensation.
  • Makes investments to address court-mandated fixes in the state’s mental health system and increases funding for other important social services.
  • Provides a 2015–17 operating budget of about $38 billion and meets the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement.
  • Funding sources include account transfers and a net increase in revenue from closing tax exemptions and extending some current exemptions that support needed jobs. Includes provision to expand Washington’s ability to collect taxes from out-of-state entities that make sales within the state.

On transportation, the governor made a key concession

“The current bill has a poison pill that pits clean air against transit. I oppose that and have worked hard to find a better alternative. But legislators tell me it is essential to passing the $15 billion multi-modal transportation package and authorizing an additional $15 billion for Sound Transit light rail expansion.

“I will sign the bill even with this provision because of the jobs, safety improvements and traffic relief that the investments would provide.

Stories on transportation in the Associated Pres, the Olympian, Crosscut, and the Seattle Times.
While there’s still work to be done, the weekend’s progress suggests a successful conclusion to a difficult, lengthy legislative session.