To his credit, Gov. Jay Inslee’s State of the State speech Tuesday took direct aim at the most pressing issue facing state government. Whether it hit the mark, however, is another question.
Inslee surprised many by saying that he will present the Legislature with a plan to increase spending on K-12 education by $200 million. Just last month, in putting forth a supplemental budget proposal for 2014, Inslee had indicated that additional funding for education would have to wait a year, until the next biennial budget is discussed. Pragmatism, however, got the better of him.
“I’ve had to rethink that approach,” Inslee said during his address at the state Capitol. “Or, to be candid, the Supreme Court has forced us all to look anew at funding our education system this year.”
Fair enough. Last year, in compiling the 2013-15 state budget, lawmakers added an additional $1 billion for K-12 education — a nod and a wink toward the massive spending additions mandated by the 2012 McCleary decision. Last week, the state Supreme Court essentially said, “Thanks, now where’s the rest?” The Legislature has until 2018 to provide adequate funding for education, as defined by the court. That’s what led to Inslee’s proactive announcement in the State of the State speech. But now the hard work begins.
“The court wrote that it wants to see ‘immediate, concrete action … not simply promises,'” Inslee noted, adding that he would look at closing tax breaks to pay for the $200 million, and that part of that funding would go toward “a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment for our educators.” That’s where the governor misfired.