June 7, 2013

State House approves revised budget plan

By Patrick Bell

With the deadline for the first 30-day special session looming, the State House passed out a revised budget plan last night.

The Associated Press reports:

With lawmakers entering the final days of a special session, the House voted 53-35 to approve the budget. Republicans in the chamber praised budget writers for dropping a proposed business tax extension but still expressed concern about how the measure was structured.

Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement:

“This budget is a down payment – not as much as we’d like, or we passed out of the House – but it does allow us to move forward in reducing class size, investing in all-day kindergarten, and supporting college students.”

TVW’s blog The Capitol Record outlines many of the key features in the House proposal.

In terms of it’s effects on Higher Education, the revised budget changes the tuition assumptions from 5% to 3% at the state’s public colleges and universities. The proposal also includes a separate tax package (HB 2034), which closes or narrows seven tax exemptions and redirects the revenue to the Education Legacy Trust Fund. Together, the underlying budget and HB 2034 would dedicate $39 million to significantly expand Computer Science and Engineering enrollments at UW.

The initial reaction to the House Budget from the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) came in a statement released by Majority Leader Rodney Tom:

“I am disappointed that this House budget proposal is balanced on the backs of Washington’s school kids. Our children deserve our first dollars, not our last dime.

“We in the Senate will continue to work with our House colleagues to seek a workable compromise, but we will not let political expediency stand in the way of fulfilling our obligation to provide for our schools.”

Our children deserve our first dollars, not our last dime.”

Late in the day, reports from the Spokesman-Review and other news outlets indicated that the MCC had made a counter-offer, though details were not provided keeping with the private nature of the negotiations.

Earlier in the week, Governor Jay Inslee stepped up pressure on both sides to come to an agreement. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have started a countdown clock warning of an impending fiscal cliff if the legislature can’t agree on a budget by June 30.

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates on budget negotiations, as the first special session is set to wrap up on June 11.

UPDATE: The State Senate passed a revised budget on Saturday (June 8). Read more via the AP.

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