OLYMPIA -- The Senate voted to tap a trust fund set up for school construction to help pay for other education programs and make its budget proposal balance, despite warnings it was full of "gimmicks."
Minority Democrats tried unsuccessfully to block some of the accounting changes needed to make the Majority Coalition's "no new taxes" budget work. It suspends a pay increase mandated by a 2000 initiative for a cost-of-living for teachers, something the Legislature has done most years since voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure.
It also allows the state to dip into the public lands trust fund, which a 1965 constitutional amendment sets aside for school construction, and use $166 million of it for other education programs.
"It may or may not be constitutional, but it's not good policy," Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said.
Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, countered that the Senate bill manages to add nearly $1 billion to improve public schools -- something it is under orders from the state Supreme Court to do -- without raising taxes: "The thing that matters is not where the money comes from. . . but where the money goes."
Efforts to amend the bill were rejected, and it passed on a 28-20 vote