Gov. Jay Inslee (seated) joins in applause with lawmakers and others who gathered to watch him sign the supplemental budget on Tuesday in Olympia. The budget pays for the final piece of a long-running court case on basic education funding. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Gov. Jay Inslee (seated) joins in applause with lawmakers and others who gathered to watch him sign the supplemental budget on Tuesday in Olympia. The budget pays for the final piece of a long-running court case on basic education funding. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Inslee signs spending and tax-cut bills; here’s what they do

He and lawmakers think they’ve finally met the mandate to fully fund public education.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed a supplemental budget Tuesday containing more than a billion dollars in new spending to provide ample state funding of public schools by a fall deadline, bolster the mental health system and cut property taxes across Washington in 2019.

The budget relies on a surge in tax collections from a booming economy to make what the governor and lawmakers think will be the last major investment in the public school system required to comply with the state Supreme Court ruling in the McCleary case.

“I would certainly hope so,” Inslee said shortly after signing the bill. “This is going to result in much more equal opportunity for students across the state of Washington. We’re not finished. This is a big achievement.”

The budget pledges $972 million to ensure the state is paying its share of basic education costs by the start of school in September, a deadline imposed by the court. Most of those dollars will go to assure the state is covering the lion’s share of teacher salaries starting this fall.

There are additional dollars for special education and other programs. And $105.2 million is set aside to pay the $100,000-a-day fine accruing since August 2015 when Supreme Court justices found the Legislature in contempt for not meeting established milestones. Justices have said the penalty must be spent in elementary and secondary schools.

The fines continue to mount, at least for now. On April 9, lawmakers will submit their annual progress report to the court and are expected to argue they have complied with the court’s 2012 ruling in the case. If the court agrees, the case could come to an end sometime this year.

“Our motivation has always been the kids,” Inslee told reporters after the bill signing. “We believe that by satisfying the McCleary decision we satisfied a higher purpose, which is our moral responsibility to our kids and our grandchildren. And I feel good about that.”

Education isn’t the only new spending in the supplemental budget. Another $231 million is going into behavioral and mental health services. Those dollars will pay for improvements at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals, complying with federal court decrees regarding evaluation and treatment for people accused of crimes, and tackling a crisis of opiate abuse.

The total includes $46.4 million to cover the anticipated accumulation of fines, attorney fees and other costs associated with the Trueblood case, which aims to eliminate long waits for mental competency evaluations and treatment for people accused of crimes.

And a chunk of the revenue windfall for the budget will provide property owners temporary relief from the whopping tax rate increase showing up on bills this year.

In 2017, to generate money to cover McCleary-related costs, lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee boosted the statewide tax rate to $2.70 per $1,000 assessed value. Under a bill signed Tuesday, the rate will be reduced in 2019 by 30 cents to $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed value. It will go back to $2.70 in 2020.

In all, there is an additional $1.2 billion in spending on top of the two-year $43.7 billion budget passed in June. Once reductions and adjustments in some programs are factored in, the net increase is about $900 million, according to budget documents.

Republican lawmakers Tuesday renewed their criticism of the level of spending and the fiscal maneuvering behind the tax cut. Both those bills passed along mostly on partisan lines in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said “pent-up demand from Democrat special interests … burst open the floodgates for new spending.”

“Despite much higher revenues, the budget approved largely along party lines found a way to overspend and underperform,” he said in a statement. “I could not and did not support this budget due to the lack of fiscal responsibility and meager property tax relief.”

Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, said he voted for last year’s budget but not this year’s update because Republicans were “literally locked out” of the process.

“I was disappointed in the overall budget even though it had my top priority in it,” he said, referring to the inclusion of $800,000 for a 40-bed residential criminal justice diversion center pilot project in Everett.

Also Tuesday, the governor signed supplemental budgets for transportation and construction.

For Snohomish County, the roads budget has several projects including $2 million for environmental analyses related to the future rebuilding of the U.S. 2 trestle and $8.8 million toward widening of Highway 9 from 176th Street SE to State Route 96 in the Clearview area.

There’s also money to address the problem of chronic settlement on 35th Avenue SE in Mill Creek between 141st Street SE and 144th Street SE and to install flashing radar speed signs in each direction of Highway 530 near Chief Brown Lane north of Darrington.

The capital budget includes money to begin design of a new learning resource center at Everett Community College, to support the food bank in Lake Stevens and to add a waterfront parking lot and develop a Peace Park in Mukilteo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Michael Jensen, left, and Nathan Jensen, right, pick up trash in their encampment that they being forced to clear out of by Parks Department the near Silver Lake on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Annual homeless count could shed light on pandemic’s impact

Snohomish County canceled its 2021 point-in-time count. Officials hope this year’s will bring clarity.

Section of a tsunami high ground map. (Island County)
Tsunami warning fizzled, but future threat to Whidbey is real

State and county officials have long warned about the possibility of a tsunami striking the island.

Judge: Sex abuse of former Marysville student violated law

A woman sued the district last year, accusing a longtime art teacher of sexual abuse in the 1980s.

Darrell Cain, Pierce College Puyallup president and incoming Everett Community College interim president
Pierce College Puyallup president picked to lead EvCC for now

Everett Community College’s board chose Darrell Cain as its interim president.

Christian Sayre (Washington County Sheriff's Office)
$1 million bail for Everett bar owner charged with rapes

Christian Sayre, 35, owner of The Anchor Pub, was charged last week with 10 counts of felony sex crimes.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Democrats ready to ditch the other ‘grand bargain’ of 2021

Here’s what’s happening on Day 10 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Jonathan Kline said a museum would be coming in to take most of the pews from the former Jehovah's Witness church on Morris Road outside Coupeville. The Whidbey Homeless Coalition wants to turn the building into an overnight shelter.
Appeal filed against homeless shelter project near Coupeville

More than 300 neighbors signed a letter saying the location isn’t an appropriate place for the shelter.

The entrance to the new free COVID vaccination site at the Everett Mall on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free mass-vaccination site opens Tuesday at Everett Mall

Hundreds of appointments are up for grabs at the state-run site, which will offer initial doses, boosters and pediatric shots.

Inches of snow cover roads Saturday afternoon in downtown Edmonds, Washington on February 13, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After snowstorms, cities make a roadmap for next time

Meanwhile, Lynnwood was inundated with entries in a contest to name a city plow. One idea? Plowy McPlowface.

Most Read