Senate, House closing in on state budget

The state Legislature appears to have reached an agreement on the two-year operating budget, according to majority floor leader Sen. Joe Fain, 47th District. The race to the budget finish line has taken two special session and the beginning of a third. Gov. Jay Inslee had to sign the bill by midnight Tuesday for the government to continue operating, which is past the press deadline. Check online, www.courierherald.com, for an update.

Olympia news

The state Legislature appears to have reached an agreement on the two-year operating budget, according to majority floor leader Sen. Joe Fain, 47th District.

The race to the budget finish line has taken two special session and the beginning of a third. Gov. Jay Inslee had to sign the bill by midnight Tuesday for the government to continue operating, which is past the press deadline. Check online, www.courierherald.com, for an update.

Fain said there was a backup plan to pass a continuing resolution to fund government operations for a month if negotiations fall apart.

Senate members announced a tentative agreement was reached Saturday, the 163rd day of the session.

The budget must first pass out of the Senate. Fain said Sunday evening he and others were working on getting the vote done by Monday.

“We’ve had a good response so far,” Fain said. “I’m optimistic.”

If the bill clears the Senate it moves to the House. If there are no changes to the bill in the House it moves to the governor’s desk for his signature.

If the House makes changes, the bill moves back to the Senate for reconsideration.

According to the Senate members funding for schools and teacher salaries have been increased and there is a college tuition reduction. The Senate majority members said the budget comes without any new taxes.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said by email Monday, “My caucus and I demanded and got a no-new-taxes budget. With a total of $3.2 billion in extra revenue because of a healthy economy, there is no need to raise taxes. Winning that argument took two extra sessions but I believe protecting taxpayers against unnecessary tax increases is part of my job.”

School funding has become the Sword of Damocles hanging over the 2015 Legislature.

The state Supreme Court found the state of Washington in contempt for not complying with the Court’s Jan. 5 2012 McCleary v. Washington order, which directed the Legislature to fulfill its funding obligation as stated in Article IX of the state Constitution.

The Constitutional clause reads: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”

The balancing act for the House, Senate and governor was to find the money to pay for schools, roads, human services and a myriad of other services.

In the January contempt finding, Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen wrote the state “failed” to submit a funding plan by April 30. Madsen wrote, “Sanctions and other remedial measures are held in abeyance,” to allow the Legislature to comply by the end of the 2015 session.

 

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