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A last-ditch effort to shore up state education funding

Senate Republicans are for it. Dems not so much.
Democrat Jim Hargrove has reservations about the Hill bill.

Democrat Jim Hargrove has reservations about the Hill bill. John Stang

A new bill that would move the state towards allocating two-thirds of any revenue growth to education is headed to a full Washington Senate vote. The bill, which was recommended for passage by the Senate Ways and Means Committee Monday, would set a November public referendum on the issue.

The bill, by Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, would create a referendum to route two-thirds of any new state general funds to early learning programs, K-12 and higher education. How the extra education revenue would be divided among those three areas is yet to be determined, Hill said.

"We actually have mixed feelings about this on our side," said Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam and the ranking Democrat on the committee. Hargove said more long-term funding is needed for education, but the committee's ten Democrats voted against the bill because of worries about how much that two-thirds proposal would cut into health care appropriations.

Hill and other Republican committee members said his bill would begin reversing a decade of legislative priorities in which education had received less than half of the state operations budget.

Ways & Means Committee staff calculated that, if approved, the measure would raise an extra $9 billion for education over the next eight years. Other staff figures predict the bill would raise an extra $300 million for early learning, K-12 education and higher education in 2015-2017; an extra $1.6 billion in in 2017-2019; and an extra $3.5 billion in 2019-2021.

A 2012 Supreme Court ruling — dubbed the McCleary Decision — has called on lawmakers to find $3 billion to $3.5 billion in extra revenue for massive improvements in Grades K-3 between 2015 and 2019. Hill's bill would raise $1.9 billion during that period for early learning, K-12 education and higher education; only a fraction of that would actually go towards improvements mandated by the McCleary Decision.

Neither the Ways & Means staff's calculations nor the McCleary ruling account for reviving long-dormant teacher cost-of-living raises.
 

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 10:30 a.m. Inappropriate

The state would need a pretty big pie for a 1/3 slice to take care of all of our existing non-education needs, let alone replacing the funding slashed during the great recession and accommodating the inevitable case-load increases from population growth and demographic shifts such as the aging of the baby-boom generation. Exactly how does this scheme grow the pie so that the slices are big enough? It mentions "revenue growth" without identifying any method to actually grow revenue, so the assumption seems to be that they're expecting increasing revenues from the same tired, old, regressive and insufficient sources to be sufficient - a rather dubious proposition. If this proposal were something along the lines of a new Capital Gains tax with 2/3 new revenue dedicated to education, then it might be feasible. Otherwise, this is just a stunt by Senate Republicans to demonstrate to the Supreme Court that they're addressing the McCleary mandate.

Posted Wed, Mar 12, 3:36 p.m. Inappropriate

$9 Billion is not a stunt. This is a way for the Legislature to commit to the priorities of our state's Constitution. The "tired old" sources will be supplemented by all the savings from Obamacare which will transform the whole health care delivery system, as its proponents promised.

simorgh

Posted Wed, Mar 12, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

These kinds of rules are stupid. They are supposed to force future legislatures to make certain types of decisions, but they never really work. The future legislature can always find a way around the rule.

This sort of rule is also a sad acknowledgement by the legislature that they are incapable of making wise spending and budgeting decisions on their own. If that's the case, then they should just resign.

coolpapa

Posted Wed, Mar 12, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

"Ways & Means Committee staff calculated that, if approved, the measure would raise an extra $9 billion for education over the next eight years."

It sounds like that would fund the McCleary mandate, right? and the Democratic opposition is due to a concern for ".. (future) health care appropriations". Why is that a good argument? providing for education is a constitutionally required budget provision. Health care? well we now have Federally mandated private health insurance, we have Medicaid, Medicare leading me to wonder why Mr. Hargrove is using that hypothetical need to argue against education funding. Thanks for reporting on this.

kieth

Posted Thu, Mar 13, 6:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Now to generate more revenue, the Legislature needs to approve a few new measures. Allow for non-tribal, taxable Casinos in the same numbers as existing Tribal Casinos and with the same exemptions from the indoor smoking ban. Allow for adult consentual prositution, much like MJ, prohibition doesn't work. Legalize, tax and regulate as you would any other personal service. Instead of taxing bottled water, tax coffee and coffee specialty drinks. There, I just fixed your funding problem. Now if we can just keep the Legislature from exempting property taxes based on race we might start to make some progress.
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1287&year;=2013

Cameron

Posted Fri, Mar 14, 4:29 p.m. Inappropriate

I'll have to side with Andy Hill in principle. If education is to be funded, and the first priority to be funded, then do it and let the remainder be sorted out. Logic, versus magical thinking that a huge amount of revenue will appear, which it probably will not.

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