Senate Democrats and Republicans have been saying their budget writers are working together to come up with a plan that can draw votes from both sides of the narrowly divided Senate.
There’s still no schedule for a budget rollout, but there’s fresh evidence today that Republican budget chairman Andy Hill and his Democratic counterpart, Jim Hargrove, are finding common ground on how to balance the budget and devote money to K-12 education to meet a state Supreme Court mandate.
Hill, of Redmond, and Hargrove, of Hoquiam, filed a series of bills today including Senate Bill 5895, which dedicates a slew of existing tax revenues to K-12, higher education and preschool while constraining the rise of all other spending to the rates of inflation plus population growth.
Schools and colleges would get part or all of the state’s revenues from property taxes, utility taxes, real-estate excise tax, solid-waste tax and unclaimed lottery prizes. The special fund would also take the money that is slated to go to voter-mandated cost-of-living raises for school employees, and instead devote it to schools more generally. And it would dedicate funding from any windfall Washington would get if Congress acts to expand states’ authority to collect sales taxes on online sales.
Here are a couple of snippets from the bill:
The legislature recognizes that it is the paramount duty of the state under Article IX of the state Constitution to provide for the education of the citizens of the state. The state supreme court ruled the legislature has not provided adequate state funding from dependable and regular sources to comply with the paramount duty. It is the intent of the legislature, therefore, through section 101 of this act to modify the state expenditure limit to ensure a limit is placed on the remainder of state government expenditures that will enable the state to commit an increasing proportion of state tax dollars and the state budget to the education of our citizens in fulfillment of the state’s paramount duty.
Article IX of the Washington state Constitution states that it is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. The legislature finds that the proliferation of special dedicated funds and diversions of state revenues for purposes other than this paramount duty erodes the state’s financial capacity to fulfill this constitutional duty. The legislature intends to meet this constitutional duty, in part, by reprioritizing some of these diverted state resources to the paramount duty.