Time is running out for Washington lawmakers to negotiate a state budget that complies with a Supreme Court ruling to fully fund schools.
House Democrats and Senate Republicans have passed very different budgets and school funding plans. For instance, Democrats want a capital gains tax while Republicans have approved a new state property tax levy.
Senate Republicans have passed a plan that creates a new state property tax levy of $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed value to fund schools while simultaneously eliminating local maintenance and operation school levies. Republicans say this is the fairest way to shift the burden of funding schools back onto the state as required by the Washington Supreme Court.
Besides the capital gains tax, the House Democrats’ tax proposal calls for changes to the state’s Real Estate Excise and Business and Occupation Taxes. Democrats say the taxes are needed to fully fund education and protect safety net programs, but they have no plan to vote on the taxes until there’s a final deal on the budget.
Republican John Braun, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, said negotiations can’t even start until House Democrats pass their proposed $3 billion tax plan.
“That’s a big problem and one that I think right now is creating a significant drawback in negotiations as we try to finish on time,” Braun said.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Timm Ormbsy, a Democrat, said this is no time for “pre-conditions.”
“This is when people get together as adults and discuss the differences and discuss paths to resolving them,” he said.
Despite their differences, the House and Senate budgets also have similarities. For instance, both budgets prioritize spending on education and mental health.
The difference in spending between the two budgets is about $1.6 billion. The House proposes to spend $44.9 billion over the next two years and the Senate proposes to spend $43.3 billion.
If lawmakers can’t agree by April 23 they’ll go into special session.
Braun and Ormsby spoke with Austin Jenkins on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.