The benefits — and the frustrations — of having a divided Legislature are evident in the competing state budget proposals put forth in Olympia.
Plans from the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House both provide big increases in spending for K-12 education, and they say “budget” in their title. That, however, is where the similarities end. While that portends a long and drawn-out negotiating process on the two-year budget, it also bodes well for the state’s residents as compromise is likely to preserve the wheat and discard the chaff in the respective proposals.
Senate Republicans last week unveiled a plan to provide $1.8 billion of new state money for public K-12 schools, hoping to meet the Legislature’s paramount duty of adequately funding education as demanded by the state Supreme Court in the 2012 McCleary v. Washington decision.
To achieve that goal, senators go to great lengths to avoid any new taxes. They propose a state property tax increase designed to replace local school levies, a plan that will provide relief for property owners in low-value districts and increase the burden on areas with high property values. Republicans also propose cuts to various social programs, such as $53 million from the Housing and Essential Needs program and $44 million from a child care subsidy program for low-income residents.
House Democrats, meanwhile, propose a $1.9 billion increase in education funding to be financed through $3 billion in tax increases. Central to the plan is the creation of a capital-gains tax that, according to lawmakers, would affect 48,000 residents. Democrats also propose increases to the business and occupation tax upon large companies and in the real estate excise tax for high-end homes.