Waiting for budget reality enters new act in Olympia

Capitol Week Ahead: Senate Republicans are close to releasing their budget. And their ideas about education spending.
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Capitol Week Ahead: Senate Republicans are close to releasing their budget. And their ideas about education spending.

This week's biggest event in Olympia may or may not occur.

The 23-Republican-two-Democrat Majority Coalition Caucus running the Washington Senate will unveil its 2013-2015 operating budget proposal this week. Or next. The Democrat-controlled House will release its proposed budget a few days later.

The bottom line is that after weeks of generic budget posturing, both sides will soon have specifics to debate.

The predicted operating budget revenue for 2013-2015 appears on track to be $32.5 billion — $2 billion more than 2011-2013.

The state faces a $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion shortfall between the costs of Washington's obligations and the anticipated 2013-2015 income, according to the Washington Office of Financial Management. Those shortfall figures cover only the costs of continuing existing programs. Beyond that, there is the need to meet the Washington Supreme Court mandate to upgrade K-12 education. House Democrats put that figure at $1.4 billion, which would create a $2.6 billion to $2.7 billion overall shortfall.

The Senate's majority coalition has been tight-lipped about its estimates on how much money is needed to meet the Supreme Court mandate — with that figure to be soon announced.

The House Democrats believes some tax increases are inevitable because of the lack of money to meet all of the state's obligations. Republicans believe no new taxes are needed, and the Senate budget proposal will be their case for that stance.

Here are some other highlights of the upcoming week:

  • Monday: The Senate's Human Services and Corrections Committee will hold a hearing on the confirmation of Kevin Quigley as the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Senate's Commerce and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on the confirmation of Joel Sacks as director of the Department of Labor and Industries. The Senate K-12 Education Committee will hold a hearing on a House-passed bill to make community service a requirement for high school graduation.
  • Tuesday: The Senate's Government Operations Committee will hold a hearing on a House bill to allow creation of election districts to replace at-large election of officials to some city councils, school boards and other bodies. The change would be allowed where a demographic group is shown to be radically underrepresented in a system of at-large voting. A similar Senate bill died.
  • Thursday: The Senate Energy and Environment Committee will be briefed on new nuclear technologies in Washington.

For exclusive coverage of the state Legislature, check out Crosscut's Olympia 2013 page.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8