Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat in the third month of his tenure, unveiled his $34.4 billion budget blueprint in a lengthy televised news conference at the Capitol on Thursday.
Headline: He would generate about $1.4 billion in new revenue by extending expiring taxes and by closing or reducing a variety of tax exemptions. The new money would mostly go for education, a $1.2 billion down-payment on the state addressing a state Supreme Court mandate for full state-level funding of basic education.
The plan will collide with the no-new-taxes, GOP-dominated Senate coalition, which releases a budget soon. Inslee said he’s optimistic that a good compromise will happen. “I believe we can do hard things,” he said.
The governor’s calculation:
“To govern is to choose …. I choose education over tax breaks. … I’m betting on the future here.”
Secretary of State Kim Wyman complimented the governor for restoring support for the Washington State Library, erasing a $2.6 million deficit in the budget plan submitted by Gov. Chris Gregoire before she left office in January.
The new proposal, like Gregoire’s, would shift the Library out of the main General Fund, into the Heritage Center account, but Inslee doesn’t presume a Library cut of over $600,000 and doesn’t presume passage of a $2 million fee increase that Gregoire had proposed but that looks DOA in the Legislature.
In short, Inslee fully funds the Library, which Wyman called “great news after a decade of severe budget cuts.” The Library serves not only the Legislature and Hill staffers, but also patrons across the state and local libraries across Washington, she said. The Library also provides crucial services to blind and reading-impaired people, to inmates and to mental hospitals.
Inslee also would:
- Restore the 3 percent salary cuts for public employees, starting in the new budget, which takes effect in July.
- Expand state participation in the Medicaid program, saving the state treasury in the near-term. (more…)