McKenna’s plan would give schools $1.25 billion more

TACOMA — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna on Tuesday sought to paint a clearer picture of how he would steer billions of additional dollars into public schools and colleges without raising taxes or axing major social service and health care programs.

Armed with spreadsheets, the two-term attorney general told reporters he can come up with $1.25 billion more for elementary and secondary schools and $436 million for higher education in the next budget primarily by redirecting money from non-education programs into classrooms.

He said he would impose hard limits on what every department spends, pay less of the health care tab of state workers and not fill every vacant government job, using any savings for students.

Another key element of his blueprint is adoption of a controversial scheme to give local school districts a greater share of the state’s property tax levy.

Taking those steps, he said, will go a long way to providing a stable, uniform and ample supply of funding for public schools as required by a state Supreme Court ruling issued earlier this year.

“This is a lot more stable than what we’ve been doing, and I think it meets the Supreme Court test. Our proposal is clearly better and stronger that what would happen” if the status quo continued, he said.

All in all, McKenna didn’t roll out a bunch of new ideas with reporters Tuesday. Rather, he added a bit of heft to the skeletal education funding plan he put out earlier in the campaign, criticized by opponents as mostly wishful thinking.

Not surprisingly, the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Jay Inslee, bashed this latest version.

Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith issued a statement saying McKenna “continues to campaign in an alternate reality” and called the updated plan “as phony as his first.”

“The formula he uses wouldn’t generate the funding he claims for years, all the while critically underfunding essential services for children,” she said. “It’s more empty promises from Rob McKenna.”

For his part, Inslee has said he will find more money for education by trimming wasteful spending, lowering health care costs and generating revenue from a revived economy. He’s opposed new taxes and not taken a position on the levy swap idea.

Education funding is a central issue in this year’s campaign since the high court concluded in January that the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education.

In the so-called McCleary decision, justices gave state lawmakers until 2018 to fix the way the state pays for education.

State budget officials are estimating the cost of compliance will start out at around $500 million a year in the budget that begins July 1, 2013 and rise to around $2 billion a year by 2018.

McKenna got into the weeds Tuesday in explaining how his plan could meet those obligations and prevent future declines in state aid for public schools.

In a nutshell, he would limit spending in non-education programs to 6 percent per two-year budget to free up several hundred million dollars a year. However, he could not say specifically from which departments and programs those savings would come.

He’s also counting on state revenues climbing 9 percent per biennium.

McKenna said his goal is for the state to spend 48 percent of its budget on K-12 programs by 2019; the current level is 44 percent. Also, by that time, he wants the size of classes for kindergarten through third grade to be 17 students per teacher and all-day kindergarten available statewide.

And he said his proposal would allow higher education funding to be increased every year.

McKenna constructed his plan with the help of Dan McDonald, a former state senator who ran the Senate budget committee in his tenure.

The onetime lawmaker acknowledged there are plenty of political challenges to carrying it out.

“This gets you to where you want to be and the numbers work,” he said. “And I think it’s very reasonable to say, look, higher ed and K-12 have been taking the brunt for a long time. We’re going to grow them faster than the rest of state government.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

A photo of "Tazz," an Argentine white Tegu still missing near Granite Falls. (Provided photo)
Tazz the missing tegu reunited with owner in Granite Falls

The 4-foot lizard went missing Friday evening. Searchers located him in a barn, 1 mile away from his home.

A closing sign hangs above the entrance of the Big Lots at Evergreen and Madison on Monday, July 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Big Lots announces it will shutter Everett and Lynnwood stores

The Marysville store will remain open for now. The retailer reported declining sales in the first quarter of the year.

President Joe Biden speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, N.C., on April 14, 2022. Biden plans to nominate Michael Barr  to be the Federal Reserve's vice chairman of supervision. The selection of Barr comes after Biden's first choice for the Fed post, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her nomination a month ago (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Washington Democrats voice support for Biden’s decision to drop out of presidential race

Some quickly endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him on the ballot.

Everett
Teenager in stable condition after Everett drive-by shooting Saturday

Major Crime Unit detectives were looking for two suspects believed to have shot the teenager in the 600 block of 124th Street SW.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.