Sen. John Braun says the 2017-19 operating budget proposal released today by House Democrats asks for $8 billion more from state taxpayers without promising much in the way of improved outcomes.
“Demanding that working families and job creators send $8 billion more to Olympia, without expecting much in the way of better results for some of our most disadvantaged students, sends the wrong message to Washington residents,” said Braun, R-Centralia, who serves as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Because the House budget would continue significant local tax levies for school districts, instead of making the meaningful reforms supported in the budget adopted by the Senate last week, it would also maintain and even exacerbate current inequities in school funding. That lack of fairness leads to significantly lower high-school graduation rates for low-income students, Braun said.
He also questioned whether the House budget is more viable than similar recent proposals.
“What we see is proposed tax increases similar to years past, which have not made it off the floor of the House. Once the House Democrats demonstrate that a majority of the House stands behind this plan, we can view it as a serious proposal. Until then it is a wish list that does not deal with the realities of governing.”
Last week the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus approved a two-year operating budget proposal that prioritizes education and services for the state’s most vulnerable, while avoiding general tax increases. The Senate’s $43 billion proposal encompasses the K-12 education plan it adopted in February, which would dramatically increase per-student funding while equalizing property-tax rates statewide.
“Democrats have repeatedly said that new taxes are necessary to fully fund public education, but this budget proposal says otherwise,” said Braun. “With roughly $80 million difference in education funding in budgets totalling more than $40 billion, it is perfectly clear that the new taxes are really intended to pay for everything else but education.”
One bright spot, Braun said, is that the House majority’s proposal complies with Washington’s first-in-the-nation requirement that anticipated tax revenues cover state spending over four years instead of just two.
“The House respects the importance of creating a budget that projects to balance over four years and maintain healthy reserves in case of an economic downturn avoiding the budget roller coasters of years past,” said Braun.
Braun noted lawmakers are on day 78 of their 105-day legislative session, meaning final negotiations on a new two-year state budget and addressing systemic education-funding issues must get under way soon.
“My colleagues across the aisle have committed to approving a landmark plan that would finally address our most important duty – supporting a high-quality and equitable public-education system — this year. I am taking them at their word that they will come through with legislation that can serve as the basis for working toward the solutions we need.”