State legislators spoke on educational funding and state budgets to small business owners at a Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
Sen. Guy Palumbo (D), Rep. Shelley Kloba (D) and Rep. Derek Stanford (D) of the 1st Legislative District spoke to local business owners about the deadlock of the state capital budget and their vote on the state operating budget, which contains an education funding plan to comply with the McCleary decision.
The McCleary decision, made by the State Supreme Court in 2012, ruled that Washington is failing to properly fund K-12 education and required the Legislature to come up with a plan to fully fund education by Sept. 1, 2018.
The two-year operating budget passed at the last minute, preventing a potential state government shutdown on July 1, when the previous budget expired.
All three legislators said they voted against the budget because they believed the 1st District would be hit the hardest by the property tax hikes that are intended to help solve the McCleary problem.
“Out of 295 school districts in the state, if you rank them by how high their property tax is going up, nobody gets hit worse than our district,” Palumbo said.
Northshore and Lake Washington school districts are in the top five property tax increases and Edmonds School District is in the top 10, he added.
“It’s not even for educational outcomes, they take $3 billion of our taxes and send it to other districts for tax cuts,” Palumbo said. “ There’re lots of good reasons to vote for (the budget), but I voted against it because I feel that in two years we’ll be back here with a $2 billion hole to fill.”
The three legislators all said that while the operating budget did many things right, it didn’t balance the budget well enough to properly fund education and sustain it.
“There are few things in (the budget) that are important,” Kloba said. “There was a big gain for special education. But I didn’t think, on balance, that was enough.”
Stanford said he voted no on the operating budget because he believes the increased educational funding was balanced on the backs of the middle class.
“The structure of that revenue is very much falling on the middle class,” Stanford said. “I think that is exactly the opposite direction of where we should be going,” he said.
According to Stanford, he has been hearing this from voters, particularly through push back against the property taxes increase.
State Capital Budget
The state capital budget is in a similar deadlock as the House and Senate tried to come to terms before the deadline, which was Thursday. According to Palumbo, “we don’t have a capital budget and we might not get a capital budget for the first time in the history of the state, which is really a tragedy.”
As of the Reporter’s deadline, lawmakers had not come to an agreement on the state capital budget deadline on Thursday.
Senate Republicans, who control the senate, want to roll back a decision on water policies that caused problems for some rural home construction and the drilling of some domestic water wells.
The GOP lawmakers said they will not move on the capital budget until Senate Democrats can come to an agreement on the water policy.
While the Senate Republicans are holding fast on this issue, House Republicans have been more negotiable, according to Stanford.
“The only proposals we’ve received from across the aisle have come from the House Republicans,” he said. “The Senate Republicans haven’t even been willing to engage with the House Republicans. They’re very isolated on this.”
This isn’t a partisan issue, according to Stanford, and the Senate Republicans have taken an all-or-nothing approach.
“If we were just negotiating with the House Republicans, this all would’ve been done months ago,” he said. “At this point we (had) until July 20, to give our final view on that water policy bill, and if we don’t, the Senate Republicans say they will not move the capital budget. That has big impacts all over the state.”
Without a capital budget, numerous state projects wouldn’t receive funding until a budget is passed. Namely construction projects and university buildings, according to Stanford.
The two-year budget adds nearly $1 billion for school district to build or renovate school buildings and more than $100 million to support mental health and help prevent wildfires.