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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Legislature passes $38.2 billion budget

Negotiators release details

UPDATED: Mon., June 29, 2015

OLYMPIA — It took the Legislature 165 days to craft a budget for the fiscal period that starts July 1. It took only a few hours after the spending plan was released for both chambers to give it overwhelming support and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee. Legislative negotiators released details of the budget compromise, which just after lunch, and passed the Senate on a 38-10 about 6 p.m. By 8 p.m., the House had passed it on a 90-8 tally and sent it to Inslee, who is due to sign it Tuesday, thus staving off a partial government shutdown that would have occurred Wednesday if the state didn’t have legal authority to spend money on many of its programs and salaries. The budget calls for spending an additional $2.8 billion on public schools, where the state is under a court order to live up to its constitutional obligations. It offers public school employees and state workers a cost-of-living raise of 3.2 percent, and gives school employees extra raises in the next two years as the state tries to correct problems with the property tax system. It increases spending on social programs and mental health care — another area where the state has lost state challenges for budget cuts during the recession. It offers all college students in the state a 5 percent tuition reduction next year, and gives further cuts to students at the four-year colleges in the 2016-17 year that amount to 15 percent for Washington State and the University of Washington, and 20 percent at the regional universities like Eastern Washington. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the tuition cuts would be the first in state history. WSU would receive $2.5 million to seek accreditation for its proposed medical school at its Spokane campus. UW would receive $9 million to continue teaching students in its multi-state WWAMI program in Spokane, with directions to enroll 60 first-year medical students in each of the next two school years. “It is a true bipartisan budget,” Hill said. “We did it by living within our means.” The budget has no new taxes, although it does close some tax preferences to generate an extra $185 million. A budget deal has eluded the Legislature for six months, and it started the third overtime session on Sunday with a partial government shutdown on Wednesday hanging over its head. Hill said one of the reasons for the extended time was the fact the Senate and House are controlled by different parties. “We’re in the world of divided government, so it takes longer.” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said members of both parties, in both chambers, will find something about the budget that they don’t like, but that’s the nature of compromise.\ “Unlike the other Washington, we actually do compromise,” Hunter said.
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