Regular session recap, next steps

Lawmakers are currently in a special session to complete work on education funding and a new state budget. While it’s disappointing we were not able to get done on time, it’s important to understand what happened during the regular session to get us to this point.

In January, I sponsored a comprehensive education reform plan to provide a high-quality public education to every student in Washington. The Senate approved this legislation, which fully funds public schools and makes them more equitable for students, teachers and taxpayers.

We then approved a new state budget in March that pays or our education investments and protects our most vulnerable citizens. The Senate proposed and actually passed a balanced budget that does not raise taxes.

This runs in stark contrast to Democrats in the House of Representatives who offered a school funding plan that protects the status quo. Despite calling for spending increases, they offered no plan to actually pay for it.

In March, the House approved a budget that would increase state spending by billions of dollars, and required $8 billion in new taxes. Due to the House’s refusal to vote on the taxes and other bills necessary to support their budget, they are almost $11 billion out of balance over the next four years.

In April, when our work on the budget should come to an end, we were left unfinished with these options:

  • a balanced Senate budget that invests in our public schools without raising taxes, or
  • a House spending plan that maintains major inequities for students and requires massive new tax increases.

Leaders from the House have demanded we negotiate a compromise with them that includes a capital gains income tax and increases on businesses including everything from nursing homes to day cares. That is not how good-faith negotiations work. Both sides must be able to come to the table with proposals that actually have support of at least one legislative chamber.

I will not negotiate with a capital gains tax that does not even have enough votes to pass the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives.

Ultimately I remain confident we can and must work together to find a solution. Doing so will require all lawmakers to be open with the public about where they stand on newly proposed taxes and education reform.

As chief budget writer in the Senate, I will continue work during this special session to create a high-quality education system and protect our economy.