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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, July 7, 2017.
Lawmakers pass key spending and education bills in last-minute rush to avoid a government shut-down

Governor Inslee signed HB 2242, to increase state funding for basic education, into law on Thursday, capping nearly 150 days of legislative wrangling to meet the final piece of the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary mandate. Lawmakers had already provided more than $2 billion in additional school funding in previous sessions, but the largest problem remaining centered on state funding for teacher salaries. School districts currently pay for a large part of those salaries with local property tax levies.

A key element of the new law is to raise the statewide property tax from $1.89 to $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value, starting next year, with the increase going to education funding. The plan then caps local property tax levies, at a lower level beginning in 2019 and limits what the money can be spent on. The cap on local levies is designed to protect homeowners from double taxation, reducing local taxes for most property owners as the state property tax increases.

The bill adds nearly $8 billion in state funding to basic education over the next four years, and Governor Inslee said “we believe we have met the constitutional obligation to our children.” He also noted that despite a closely divided legislature, there was “extraordinary bi-partisan work to get a really positive outcome for kids.”

Once agreement among legislative leaders had been reached last week, the bill was rushed through the legislative process, passing by a vote of 67-26 in the House and 32-17 in the Senate. Members of both chambers worked through Friday night and into early Saturday morning to pass other key legislation, before adjourning for the July 4th holiday. With a June 30th government shut-down looming, legislative leaders agreed on a nearly $44 billion two-year spending plan late last week, passing the Operating Budget (SB 5883) 39-10 in the Senate, and 70-23 (5 members excused) in the House on Friday.

Most legislators and the public did not get a close look at the budget before it passed. No floor amendments were offered, and Governor Inslee signed it into law after vetoing 13 sections of the bill dealing with items like studies on market rate and subsidized housing; occupational disease; burrowing shrimp control; local government legal obligations and revenue capacity; contract for Sound Transit sales tax collection; Washington Business One-Stop Portal; Legislative- Executive WorkFirst Poverty Reduction Oversight Task Force; prescription drug benefit administration; and sub-minimum wage rulemaking.

Two tax-related measures also passed during the night. HB 2163 imposes several new taxes, including a sales tax on bottled water and out-of-state internet sales. In contrast, SB 5977 reduces the state Business and Occupation tax for manufacturers, in an initiative to increase good-paying jobs for working- and middle-class families. Governor Inslee, however, says he may veto the manufacturing jobs bill.

HB 2163 passed 53-40 in the House and 33-16 in the Senate. SB 5977 passed 33-16 in the Senate and 83-10 in the House. Since passage of the bill, 23 Democratic House members have written Governor Inslee asking him to veto the jobs bill. Oddly enough, 14 of these legislators voted for the bill on final passage.

Lawmakers also passed a family-leave law (SB 5975) joining four other states in providing for paid family medical leave, including childbirth, but Washington’s will be among the most generous, covering at least three months of leave, and providing at least 90 percent of low-wage workers’ weekly income. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn), passed the Senate 37-12, and the House 65-29 . Governor Inslee signed the bill into law on Wednesday.

There are 10 more days to go in this Third Special Session of the legislature. Both chambers are adjourned until Monday, July 10th. Stay tuned to for updates and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. #waleg.

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