They’re talking McCleary again, but that won’t be enough

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015 3:02pm
  • Local News

Fines are mounting against the state for not having a plan to ensure public schools are adequately funded.

When Gov. Jay Inslee meets with Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the matter Thursday, it will be 43 days since the Supreme Court imposed its sanction.

At $100,000-a-day, that’s $4.3 million. Ka-ching!

To recap, under the McCleary decision, lawmakers have until 2018 to find a way for the state to cover the tab of a basic education for students.

They’ve earmarked billions of additional dollars in the budget for classroom supplies, all-day kindergarten and buses. But school districts still rely too heavily on local property tax dollars to operate and pay their teachers, principals and staff. The court wants such dependence to end.

The chasm between the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-run Senate on the best way to do that could not be bridged in this year’s record-setting 176 days of session. So another hour of talking in a SeaTac hotel Thursday won’t achieve an accord either.

However, it may reveal how deeply individual lawmakers and the governor are digging in on their positions ahead of the 2016 session and ensuing election season when most of them, including Inslee, will be on the ballot and could face this issue.

Democrats think the best way to break districts’ addiction to levies is with injections of dollars from a new capital gains tax. Republicans counter it would be better to make a swap – give districts more from the pot of state property tax collections and direct them to seek less locally.

Passing a new tax or swapping levies is a complicated and formidable political task.

It’s taken 43 days to get the conversation going again. It could be another 100 days or maybe 400 before they figure something out.

That would add up to some serious Ka-ching!

Dunshee pondering exit?

Turns out Rep. Hans Dunshee’s appointment as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee may not be a long term deal.

The Snohomish Democrat is in the midst of his biennial soul-searching on whether to continue his legislative career. He said Monday he isn’t sure he’ll seek re-election in 2016.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “That decision is a ways off.”

Dunshee joked about looking at travel brochures before getting tapped to be the lead budget writer for the majority party, a huge responsibility in the McCleary era.

Presuming Democrats retain control in the House and Dunshee wins re-election, he would be crafting the next two-year state budget in which levies, teacher salaries and the Supreme Court sanction must be addressed.

Dunshee’s not likely to walk away from a gig of such importance. Then again, we don’t know what brochures he was reading.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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