The Washington Senate’s GOP-led majority coalition, backed by a handful of Democrats, rolled out a $33.3 billion, two-year state budget proposal Wednesday that holds the line on taxes, plows $1 billion in new money into education, cuts college tuition, and expands Medicaid coverage.
The plan would also restore the 3 percent pay cut imposed on state workers in the last biennium.
The proposal is the first legislative draft of the session, following on the heels of new Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget blueprint last week and then-Gov. Chris Gregoire’s lame-duck budget submitted last December. Inslee called the Senate version “deeply flawed” and House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter called it unsustainable and in some aspects “downright cruel.”
Secretary of State Kim Wyman said the budget plan acknowledges the need for a major infusion of education funding and for belt-tightening and efficiencies. She said she is already looking for Lean management efficiencies in her office, and has proposed cost-savings legislation that will save taxpayers $1.6 million. Those bills are currently moving through both houses and as part of the budget process.
Wyman did take issue with the budget’s funding for the State Library. The plan is to shift the Library, including the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, from the main General Fund to the dedicated savings account lawmakers previously approved for construction of the Washington State Heritage Center. Wyman said the Library still appears to be underfunded by roughly $1 million. She also noted that the Office of Secretary of State is directed to cut $632,000 further from the Library’s costs and to absorb about $450,000 in efficiency cuts — despite having already identified and advocated for $1.6 million in cost-savings.
Wyman said she looks forward to working with legislators in both chambers and the governor to secure funding for the Library, which she called “a core service of government, assisting millions of readers and hundreds of our excellent local libraries.” The Library provides indispensable service to blind and reading-impaired people, operates institutional libraries, helps local libraries secure federal grants and group purchasing of services, and is set to partner with Microsoft on a free IT Academy via the libraries of Washington, she added. The Microsoft IT Academy is in the Senate budget, she noted.
Senate budget Chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the overall budget protects core services and pumps a heavy new investment in 3-23 education (early childhood education through K-12 and higher education), without relying on additional taxation or wholesale closure of tax preferences. The economy recovery is still fragile and lawmakers should be very cautious about raising taxes, he said.
The governor’s plan generates about $1.3 billion in new revenue by closing tax (more…)