The Legislature finally reached a deal on a new state budget last week. The good news is that it avoided a state shutdown. The bad news is that it took one regular and two special sessions – 150 days in all – to get what should have been reachable months ago.
There’s nothing very dramatic about this budget. Schools will get a $1 billion revenue boost. About half of it will go to take the burden of student transportation, school supplies and building utilities off the backs of local school districts. Such things should be the state’s job anyway. The rest will go to expand all-day kindergarten and reduce class sizes in schools that serve areas with high poverty. Those additions make sense.
Lawmakers also were able to use a projected additional $320 million in revenue to help quiet the yelps of other interest groups that saw themselves losing out to schools.
However, the budget isn’t without a worry or two. On the way to an agreement, lawmakers eliminated a tax break over certain estate taxes that could have cost the state $160 million in current and future income. The fact that the law is retroactive has some questioning if it will hold up to court scrutiny.
One reason for the lengthy budget debate was that the Democrats – House, Senate and governor’s office – didn’t end up with the total control they anticipated after last November’s election. Thankfully, two Senate Democrats, Rodney Tom from Medina and Tim Sheldon from Potlatch, joined with Republicans to form a majority coalition. That put a brake on the Legislature from likely pushing through higher taxes.
– Craig Groshart, Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter