WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, March 24, 2017.
State Senate passes record state budget in early morning vote. Motion to bring capital gains tax bill to a vote fails.
In a marathon session that adjourned around 12:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Washington State Senate passed a record $43 billion state spending plan that, for the first time since 1993, allocates over 50 percent of the state’s operating budget to basic education funding.
The budget bill, SB 5048, passed along strict party lines by a 25-24 vote with all members of the Majority Coalition Caucus (24 Republicans and one Democrat) voting “yes.” During the course of the debate, members of both parties proposed 22 floor amendments, of which ten were adopted.
The budget would provide nearly $21.9 billion to K-12 schools, an increase of $3.8 billion over current spending. The plan relies in part on replacing disparate local school district property tax levies with a statewide property tax dedicated to education that would raise property taxes for some schools districts in the state, but lower them for most. It would also add some $1.8 billion in outright state funding, generated by revenue increases projected in the state’s economic forecast and savings gained by restructuring a number of social service programs. According to Republican leaders, no general tax increases would be required to implement this spending plan.
Senate Democrats argued that the proposed budget does not go far enough in funding education. Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island), the Senate Democratic Leader, said in her closing remarks before the vote on the bill that “it does not reflect our values. We can do better than this.”
Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville), leader of the Republican-led Majority Coalition, said the budget plan “is a great starting point. It makes an unprecedented investment in K-12 education.”
If the proposed budget/education funding plan is now passed by the House and then by the state’s voters, it would mean that since 2012, the year the state Supreme Court handed down its McCleary education funding order, the state will have added $8.4 billion to education spending, expanding it by 60 percent. The budget plan includes SB 5875, which contains a referendum clause making it subject to voter approval at the November 2017 election. SB 5875, which also passed the Senate 25-24 this morning, would create the new “Local Levy Effort” statewide property tax levy for education.
House Democrats are set to release their budget plan early next week. Governor Inslee’s proposal, first released in December, would pay for added education spending by imposing a carbon tax, increasing some business taxes, and instituting a new 7.9 percent tax on capital gains income.
Just after passing the budget early this morning, Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn), the chamber’s floor leader, moved to bring SB 5111, the proposed capital gains tax bill, to a vote. He said the vote was needed to measure support for the tax, given that some $15 billion in additional spending was proposed by some legislators via floor amendments offered in the course of the night’s budget debate. Democratic leaders objected to the motion to bring the bill to a vote, and the motion, which required a two-thirds approval, failed by a 25-7 vote. 17 Democrats were recorded as absent for the vote.