OLYMPIA – The House passed a $34.2 billion budget Friday that would add money to public schools and assumes a jump in some taxes on businesses and consumers.
In a mostly party-line vote, House Democrats approved the two-year spending plan that their budget chairman, Medina Rep. Ross Hunter, described as “a responsible budget that invests in our education obligations responsibly.”
Republicans described it as a budget that will cost the state jobs. “My taxpayers and my businesses are not happy about this budget at all,” said Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, the ranking Republican on the budget committee.
The 54-43 vote, in which all Republicans and a single Democrat voted no, was merely the next step in the monthslong political dance between the House, the Senate and Gov. Jay Inslee, moving the state’s biennial operating budget into negotiations among all those groups.
Inslee also proposes changing some tax preferences to increase revenue; the Senate spending plan which passed last week has no tax increases, although some members who voted for that plan said they expected it to come back from the House with some “loopholes” closed.
Those negotiations will start Monday. The session is scheduled to adjourn April 28, but a special session will be called if a spending plan isn’t hammered out by then.
The House has yet to hold a hearing on the legislation that would end or revise the tax exemptions and extend temporary taxes on some business services and beer to make the latest budget plan work.
The House budget reduces class sizes for young children in public schools, pays for all-day kindergarten in some of the state’s poorest districts and adds money for school supplies and transportation. It also increases spending on early learning programs.
“We all face the same problems. We choose different solutions,” Hunter said. The Senate plan relies on gimmicks and unrealistic assumptions the House plan doesn’t use, he said. “We don’t give everybody everything they want. We fix broken stuff.”
But with state revenues expected to grow by $2 billion over the next two years and some $900 million in other changes that both sides support, the state shouldn’t have to raise taxes, Alexander said: “When do we say enough’s enough? At what point do we say government needs to live within its means?”
Countered Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington: “This is the only budget I’ve seen today.”