Inslee, legislative leaders reach tentative accord on new operating budget

OLYMPIA - Gov. Jay Inslee and bipartisan legislative leaders say the proposed 2015-17 state operating budget they agreed to early last Saturday is sustainable, responsible and makes important investments for Washingtonians in education and other important services.

An intensive six-hour session in the Democratic governor’s office last Saturday ended weeks of negotiations, and came just one day before a third special legislative session got underway.

While there are still details to be ironed out today (Monday) and tomorrow, all negotiators agreed that the budget will be approved before Tuesday, June 30, at midnight when the fiscal biennium ends. Without a budget agreement, much of state government would have had to be shut down beginning Wednesday, July 1.

“It was a long process, but in the end we have agreed to a budget that moves this state forward in many important ways,” Inslee said.

“This budget allows us to make a major step toward meeting our obligation to Washington’s children and to the state constitution to adequately fund education.

“And I’m particularly pleased that it also allows funding of our collective bargaining agreements and will give teachers a long-overdue and well-deserved cost of living adjustment,” said Inslee.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) led negotiations for Senate Republicans.

“This budget delivers historic college tuition cuts to working families and students, and keeps job incentives that benefit every corner of the state,” Schoesler said.

“This agreement averts a government shutdown that would not be good for our state,” the Ritzville lawmaker added.

House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) led negotiations for House Democrats.

“There is a great deal to be proud of in this budget framework,” Chopp said.

“Funding basic education; expanding early learning, Early Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program slots; historic investment in our mental health care system; keeping the low-income health care exchange in place; teacher cost-of-living parity; more higher education funding for low-income students, including our community colleges; safety net and families-in-need investments – the list goes on.

“We negotiated in good faith, and in the end we reached a compromise,” Chopp said. “The details still need to be worked out but I’m confident we can come to agreement before July 1.”

House Republican Lead-

er Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) led negotiations for House Republicans.

“Everyone has a lot to like and dislike in this budget. That’s when you know it’s truly bipartisan and ready to go,” Kristiansen said.

“In the end, we’re going to have a budget that makes historic investments in our schools, lowers college tuition and protects our most vulnerable.”

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island) led negotiations for the Senate Democrats.

“It’s critically important that we don’t disrupt our economy and the lives of hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians,” she said.

“This agreement means that the threat of a shutdown has been averted,” Nelson explained. “There are good aspects to this budget, but we cannot pay for programs and services all Washingtonians need through cuts, shifts and other accounting maneuvers.

“Many of our priorities are here, but we must fund them in responsible and sustainable ways to keep them whole,” Nelson added.

According to the governor’s office, some of the highlights of the proposed budget include:

...Invests about $1.3 billion in K-12 basic education to address growing school needs, meets the state’s constitutional obligations and expands access to full-day kindergarten.

...Reduces the cost of tuition at the state’s four-year colleges and universities and two-year community colleges, and increases funding for College Bound scholarships.

...Makes a major investment in early learning, including Early Start and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.

...Increases funding for state parks.

...Fully funds collective bargaining agreements for state employees and home care worker contracts.

...Funds the Initiative 732 cost-of-living raise for teachers, plus funds for additional teacher compensation.

...Makes investments to address court-mandated fixes in the state’s mental health system and increases funding for other important social services.

...Provides a 2015-17 operating budget of about $38 billion and meets the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement.

...Funding sources include account transfers and a net increase in revenue from closing tax exemptions and extending some current exemptions that support needed jobs. Includes provision to expand Washington’s ability to collect taxes from out-of-state entities that make sales within the state.


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