Washington's budget: How do we get to shared realism from here?

The Senate and House have released their official budgets. Now begins the closed-door bargaining.
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The Senate and House have released their official budgets. Now begins the closed-door bargaining.

This week, we enter the behind-the-scenes negotiations phase of the Washington legislative session.

Both the House and Senate have submitted proposed budgets for the next two years. Now, everyone sits and waits while House and Senate leaders do their thing behind closed doors. Their task: to reach a compromise between two radically different budget proposals for Washington state. This could take weeks.

Much, much longer than electing a new Pope. 

Although the vibe will be the same. A few cryptic clues, lots of  "no comments," gossip. Reading between the lines. Reading between the lines of the people reading between the lines. No white smoke at the end. 

But this being Washington, maybe a puff of marijuana smoke would be appropriate. A home-grown blend, of course.  

Here's how the Senate and House proposals will begin budget talks.

  • Total budget 
    • House begins at $34.5 billion. 
    • Senate begins at $33.21 billion.
  • Allocation for Washington Supreme Court-mandated improvements in education
    • The House starts at $1.3 billion and includes money for improving teacher-student ratios in grades K-3.
    • The Senate starts at $1 billion and does not include money for teacher-student ratio improvements.
  • Extra revenue 
    • The House would close 15 tax exemptions worth $751 million and extend expiring beer and services-related B&O taxes through 2015 to raise $592.7 million. 
    • The Senate version does not eliminate any tax exemptions, but would extend an expiring hospital safety-net tax by six years, raising $238 million for the 2013-2015 biennium.
  • Cuts
    • The House version includes small to moderate cuts to social and health services. 
    • The Senate version would dramatically slash social and health services. 
  • Higher education
    • The House proposal is geared for maximum tuition increases of 5 percent at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University, and 3 percent at other state colleges.
    • The Senate proposal is tailored to create a 3 percent tuition reduction.

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