PHOENIX - Washington lawmakers are working into a second special session as they try pass a budget fully funding the state's education system.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the new special session May 23 after legislators in Olympia ended the first one, called last month, after again failing to reach agreement on the 2017-19 biennial operating budget.
Washington is operating under a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling mandating that the state fully fund its basic education system and have a plan in place to do so by the 2017-2018 school year, and that is a key part of the work remaining. A bipartisan state task force convened last year met for months leading up to the start of the regular legislative session in January of this year, but deadlocked along party lines and didn’t adopt any recommendations.
Inslee, a Democrat, proposed a nearly $47 billion 2017–19 budget, which includes fully funding K-12 education and some $1 billion for school construction. He proposed to pay for the package with a new capital gains tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets, increasing the business and occupation tax rate that is applied to a broad range of personal and professional services, and enacting a new tax on carbon pollution associated with the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
"Legislators need to start making the hard decisions necessary to amply fund our schools, and do so in a way that protects the safety net for vulnerable children and families," Inslee said at a press conference announcing the new special session. He said that either the property tax increase proposed by Republicans or the capital gains tax increase proposed by Democrats could potentially find enough support in both chambers to pass, and urged lawmakers to focus on those issues where a chance of agreement exists.
“It’s up to legislators to determine what they can support in their caucuses,” Inslee said.
Legislators will have 30 days from the start of the session to come up with a budget. The new fiscal biennium begins July 1, and state law requires the adoption of a budget providing appropriations for the operation of state government prior to the beginning of the fiscal biennium.