WashingtonVotes NEWS: Wednesday, February 22, 2017.
House set to vote on Democrats’ school funding proposal. Senate Democrats seek to cancel planned property tax cut.
Education funding continues to be in the spotlight this week in Olympia, while lawmakers work to move budget and transportation bills out of committee ahead of Friday’s legislative deadline.
Debate and vote by the House on HB 1843, the Democrats’ education funding proposal, is expected later today. The bill is on the House Second Reading Calendar and eight major amendments have been proposed by House Republicans.
Democrats, who control the state House by a slim majority, are proposing to spend about $7.3 billion over the next four years to boost the amount the state spends on salaries for teachers, administrators, and other school employees. This would be in addition to the current spending education level of about $18 billion.
?The Senate, controlled by a coalition of 24 Republicans and one cross-over Democrat, passed its school funding plan earlier this month. SB 5607 would reduce local school property taxes and replace them with a statewide levy, while providing extra payments as needed to ensure school districts receive a guarantee of $12,500 per student each year. This approach would cost $2 billion less than the Democratic version over the next four years. A final agreement on a comprehensive school funding plan is likely weeks away, as House and Senate
leaders work to resolve their differences.
If the legislature does not approve a funding plan that meets their requested increases, officials from some school districts say they plan to start firing teachers.
Governor Inslee and Democratic lawmakers are urging the legislature to delay a long-planned cut in local property taxes. They promise they will reduce taxes in the following year instead. They want the Senate to pass HB 1059, approved by the House earlier this year, to cancel the current cut, also known as the “levy cliff,” and give school districts more in tax money than they would receive under current law.
Republican legislative leaders say, however, that holding to their property tax cut promise will keep the legislature on track to follow through on key changes in the way the state pays for basic education. “This bill (HB 1059) just postpones the problem,” Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) said. “It just kicks the can down the road. Why would we do that?” ?Seattle Public Schools officials say the district would receive about $30 million less in local property tax money than they would like to have. Seattle officials they will fire teachers if the legislature does not pass the desired extension by next Tuesday.
Other districts around the state have until May or later to develop their budgets, and school officials have said they can deal with the extra time it has regularly taken lawmakers to agree on the state budget that covers pubic schools. These officials offered no explanation, however, of why they are unprepared for a change in local levy rates that has been part of state law since 2010.