Legislative leaders have produced a compromise budget agreement. There’s been little time for outside analysis and less for public comment. The Washington Research Council writes in a blog post (we recommend reading the short piece),
Yesterday evening the conference agreement on the 2018 supplemental operating budget was announced. It would increase near general fund–state plus opportunity pathways (NGFS+) appropriations by $941.0 million over enacted 2017–19 appropriations. That’s $176.5 million less than the Senate-passed budget and $560.6 million more than the House-passed budget. (For more on the budgets that passed each chamber, see our policy brief.)
The conference agreement would fully fund the increase in school staff salaries in SY 2018–19, as ordered by the state Supreme Court. It would not change the apportionment schedule to save $609 million in the current biennium, as the House-passed budget would have done. It would create the dedicated McCleary penalty account to house the fines that have been accruing in the case ($105.2 million), and it would appropriate the full amount for basic education items.
The WRC notes the agreement contains no capital gains tax.
The Seattle Times reports on the budget and the politics,
Washington Democrats on Wednesday released a state budget agreement that would add court-ordered K-12-school funding and also give a one-time property-tax cut…
The nearly $400 million tax cut would take effect for the 2019 calendar year. It is intended to ease the burden of the state property-tax hike lawmakers approved last year to fund Washington’s schools…
That part of the budget deal comes in Senate Bill 6614, which gets the money by ultimately diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from going into the state’s constitutionally protected rainy-day fund.
Senate lawmakers Wednesday evening approved the bill on a party-line vote, but not before Republicans balked.
We discussed the controversial proposal here; the WRC explains the nearly $1 billion transfer from the general fund to a dedicated education account thereby avoiding a supermajority vote to tap the rainy day fund.
The News Tribune also reports on the budget deal.
The proposal has drawn opposition from minority Republicans who wanted to give a bigger cut and reduce the taxes in 2018 — when property taxes for many spike to pay for court-ordered public school reforms approved in 2017.
The Democratic plan also has drawn fury from the GOP lawmakers who accuse Democrats of skirting rules on tapping the state’s constitutionally protected reserve account for economic stability and emergencies, known in Olympia as the rainy day fund…
“It’s flat out the worst budget trick in the history of budget tricks,” state Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican, said in a Tuesday interview with The News Tribune and The Olympian.
The Democrats’ lead budget writer disagrees.
Rolfes told the two news outlets on Tuesday the plan is necessary because the GOP “indicated” they didn’t support an earlier proposal to pay for the property tax cuts with money from the rainy day fund.
“We can give that money back directly to the people before it goes to the rainy day fund,” Rolfes said.
The strategy “allows it to be a simple majority vote so we don’t have to fight about it,” she said.
This may be the way Washington’s government has often worked, but it shouldn’t be. Members of the public, along with businesses and state agencies, need time to digest complicated legislation and offer substantive feedback. This process of holding public hearings and debating bills at length helps avoid oversights that can lead to problems down the road…
If lawmakers have learned anything from this year’s public-records debacle and last year’s rushed budget, it should be that listening to the public is a key part of their job. They should take that lesson to heart and stop cutting citizens out of the process by leaving some of their most important work until the last minute.
Maybe next year.