Spin Control

Senate budget: More for schools, less for social programs

OLYMPIA -- Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, describes the budget proposal as the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam waits to discuss it. (Jim Camden)
OLYMPIA -- Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, describes the budget proposal as the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam waits to discuss it. (Jim Camden)

Sen. Andy Hill describes the budget proposal with Sen. Jim Hargrove waiting nearby in the State Reception Room.

OLYMPIA -- Leaders of a Senate committee released a $32.5 billion operating budget that spends more on education, less on programs for the poor and doesn't raise taxes. They acknowledged they don't know if it has the support to pass that chamber, let alone become the actual spending plan for the next two years.

It differs significantly from recommendations from Gov. Jay Inslee last week, but meets four goals Senate budget writers set at the beginning of the year, Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond said: It doesn't hurt the economy by raising taxes; increases spending on education programs ranging from pre-kindergarten through graduate school; it preserves some services for "the most vulnerable" and it was crafted by members of both parties.

The budget adds about $1.5 billion to the state's public school system, with about $1 billion of that going to basic education costs. The state is under a Supreme Court order to meet the constitutional requirement to make education its top priority.

It adds about $300 million to the state's universities, colleges, community and technical colleges, and orders a 3 percent cut in tuition.

It relies on some $303 million in federal money for fully participating in Medicaid expansion from the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It cuts money for such programs as Temporary Aid to Needy Families, childrens nutrition and aid to the disabled.

With the Senate divided 25-24 between a majority coalition made up of all 23 Republicans and two disaffected Democrats, and the remaining 24 Democrats, Hill emphasized the budget was drafted as "a true collaboration."

But the ranking Democrat, Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, said he was only sure of two votes for the budget, his and Hill's. Other Democrats may want to restore money to some social programs and look for tax increases or close tax loopholes to pay for it, he said.

"We'll have to wait to see the floor vote" to see if it has bipartisan support in the Senate.

In a prepared statement, Gov. Jay Inslee called the Senate budget proposal "deeply flawed," and said it relied on "short-term fixes and budget tricks" while cutting social services to pay for schools.

A hearing on the Senate budget proposal was scheduled for about three hours after the spending plan was released. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to release it's own budget in the coming days.




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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