Story Summary

2013 State Budget

By law, the governor is required to present a spending plan for the next biennium. Governor Gregoire, governor-elect Jay Inslee and state legislators weigh in on the plan.

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OLYMPIA — Breweries and distributors are lobbying lawmakers to let the state’s temporary beer tax increase expire on July 1, as scheduled, and not adopt a proposal to extend the tax and expand it to even the smallest brewers.

Three years ago, the Legislature raised Washington’s beer tax from $8.08 per 31-gallon barrel to $23.58, which amounts to about 50 cents a six-pack. It limited the tax hike to brewers that sold more than 60,000 barrels in the state of Washington, however, thereby exempting microbreweries. The temporary tax increase was set to expire July 1, 2013.

But Gov. Jay Inslee proposed in his 2013 state budget plan that the tax continue beyond its expiration date – and that the tax be expanded to all breweries, even the micros.

Small brewers turned out at the state Capitol on Monday to lobby lawmakers against the Inslee proposal. The Senate budget proposal lets the beer tax increase expire on June 30, but the House budget proposal comes out Wednesday. The beer tax is likely to be debated until a final state budget is adopted; the legislative session is set to end April 28.

The beer industry even set up a Web page with a clock that ticks the house and minutes until the state’s temporary beer tax is supposed to expire. To visit that page, click here.

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State Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, is the Senate’s chief budget writer.

OLYMPIA — The Senate passed a Republican-favored state budget plan late Friday that provides $1 billion more to education, does not raise taxes, and cuts child care and social services.

The vote was 30-18, with nine Democrats joining with 21 Republicans.

Republicans control the state Senate with the aid of two conservative Democrats.

The Democratic-controlled House is expected to unveil its budget plan next week.

Gov. Jay Inslee presented his proposed budget for the state last week and it is a very different blueprint from the Senate version – meaning a showdown is likely in the coming weeks to bring the two sides together before the legislative session ends April 28.

The plan from Senate leaders calls for $1 billion more for public schools to fulfill the state Supreme Court mandate. That’s lower than the governor’s proposed $1.2 billion.

But the big difference is that Inslee relies on new revenue, whereas the Senate budget holds the line on any new taxes.

Unlike the governor’s plan, the Senate’s proposed budget does not rely on closing tax loopholes for money and would let expire taxes on beer and professional services that are set to sunset in July.

To generate $1 billion in new money for public schools and another $1.2 billion to fill the state’s budget hole, the Senate plan relies on a number of savings.  Those include moving some government employees off the state’s health plan as they move to a federal exchange plan under the new national health care law, and a $180 million cut to child care and social services.

In a statement issued Friday night, Inslee said, “The vote today in the Senate produced a budget that would move our state in the wrong direction. The short-term and short-sighted budget tricks in this plan would hamper our economic recovery and do further damage to vital services for seniors and children. And, as key education leaders across the state have made clear, this budget would harm our ability to provide a quality education to our children.

“I was heartened by comments from some who voted for this budget that they recognize the significant problems with the Senate plan and see the value of my proposal for a responsible and sustainable budget. I will work with them in the coming days on a budget that rebuilds our economy, supports our children’s education and protects vital services.”

OLYMPIA — The conservative-led Senate proposed a state budget Wednesday that would increase K-12 education by $1 billion without raising taxes, but would move some government employees off the state’s health plan and cut child care and social services.

“We want to have a budget that promotes this fragile economy and keeps our recovery going,” said state Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the Senate’s chief budget writer.

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State Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, is the Senate’s chief budget writer.

Gov. Jay Inslee presented his proposed budget for the state last week and it is a very different blueprint – meaning a showdown is likely in the coming weeks to bring the two sides together before the session ends April 28.

The plan from Senate leaders calls for $1 billion more for public schools to fulfill the state Supreme Court mandate. That’s lower than the governor’s proposed $1.2 billion.

But the big difference is that Inslee relies on new revenue, whereas the Senate budget holds the line on any new taxes.

“It’s going to keep money in the pockets of our working families and our small business owners,” Hill said of the Senate plan.

Unlike the governor’s plan, the Senate’s proposed budget does not rely on closing tax loopholes for money and would let expire taxes on beer and professional services that are set to sunset in July.

To generate $1 billion in new money for public schools and another $1.2 billion to fill the state’s budget hole, the Senate plan relies on a number of savings.  Those include moving some government employees off the state’s health plan as they move to a federal exchange plan under the new national health care law, and a $180 million cut to child care and social services.

“Every time the Legislature has shown up here in January, they have been facing a multibillion(-dollar) deficit,” said Hill. “My goal is not to have that happen next January.”

Two Democrats appeared at Wednesday’s event, saying they helped craft the Senate plan. But others, including Inslee, deny that it’s a bipartisan blueprint.

In a statement released afterward, Inslee said the Senate’s plan is “deeply flawed” and would set the state “backward.”

In a news release, UW President Michael Young said, “Today’s Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget proposal comes up woefully short for the UW and higher education. Of the $100 million in ‘new’ funding for higher education, the majority is derived from a 20 percent tax on our international students that we believe will price students out of their education and result in a loss of high-quality talent for our state.

“Even with this tax on international students, the caucus budget and its 3 percent tuition reduction provides less funding per student in the next biennium and several hundred dollars less than what was provided over two decades ago.

“Washington already ranks second to last in the nation — 49th — in funding per student in higher education. A budget like this will not allow us to maintain the excellence of the UW and meet the needs of our students,” Young said.

The activist group Statewide Poverty Action Network also said the budget “cuts vital services to low-income children, families, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. Anti-poverty advocates are disappointed by the proposal, saying the cuts would be devastating to people in Washington.”

The next stop for the budget train is the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which is set to release its budget next week.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Revenue Committee, rejected the Senate plan as unworkable.

“It’s completely unsustainable,” Carlyle said. “We would have a disaster on our hands” in two years. “Real services impacting real people living real lives are impacted by this gimmicky budget.”

After the House presents its proposed state budget, it will be time for all three players – the governor, Senate and House – to find some common ground before the legislative session ends April 28.

jobsOLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious $120 million plan to create jobs in the state.

He said it will put a big dent in the state’s persistent unemployment rate, which stands at 7.6%.

Estimates are that 300,000 state residents are looking for work.

Inslee’s plan focuses on giving help to certain sectors of the economy, including tax breaks he argues will trigger hiring.

“If you look at the power of job creation, which is associated with these industries, in aerospace, software, life sciences, military, agriculture, I know we can do a lot better,” he said. “These action items that I have suggested are proved tools for doing it.”

Inslee’s plan calls for adding money to better train workers at both the K-12 and higher education level.  He would also boost support for tourism, the state’s fourth largest industry.

The governor said his $120 million package can be more than paid for by the $144 million savings he said the state will reap through the implementation of ‘Obamacare.’

Still, he said his big plan doesn’t come with any specific job number guarantees.

“I am sort of very cautious of creating some sort of false expectation,” he said. “I’m not going to solve the collapse of Wall Street just with my plan here today. It’s going to be a long, continuing process.”

Inslee also gave his support Wednesday to the effort to create a multibillion-dollar transportation package, which legislators are working on now.  It’s likely to include an increase in the gas tax and more tolling. The governor said it, too ,will help the state’s employment picture as well.

“We’re building bridges and tunnels and everything else with no money to finish them,” he said.

Republicans were cautiously supportive of the governor’s plan.

“We’d rather find the common ground rather than areas to fight over,” said state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.  However, they argued that a much better way to encourage job growth is to ease the regulations on business and on development.

“There are small counties with persistent unemployment, like Mason County, Cowlitz County, that have an opportunity to grow because the Growth Management Act (which requires state and local governments to manage the state’s growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands) is hampering that,” said state House Republican leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis.

The governor said he’s going to work closely with Republicans and find as much common ground as possible on his jobs bill package.

getOLYMPIA — One of the most popular government programs in Washington state may soon get the ax. The GET prepaid tuition program faces stiff opposition from some conservative state lawmakers who say the public can no longer afford it.

“Right now we have a $631 million hole that the rest of Washington citizens are responsible for,” state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said.

The GET program has become very popular with parents who want to start saving for their children’s college early. It allows them to buy college tuition credits at today’s prices. It’s proven to be a valuable “insurance” to protect families from tuition increases, which have been hefty in recent years.

Even former Gov. Chris Gregoire has a GET account for her new granddaughter.

Tom, the leader of the GOP-dominated “Coalition Caucus” in the state Senate, said Tuesday it’s time to close the GET program before the state goes further in the hole.

“What we’re trying to do is focus government,” he said. “Right now we’re in everything that we can be in. We don’t need to be in this line of business. Most other states aren’t.”

But Tom is facing still opposition from Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and many in the Democratic minority.

“You close off GET, you close off one of the few ways middle class families in Washington state have to invest and buy higher education at an affordable rate,” said Murray.

Murray argued that the $630 million dollar hole is only theoretical.

“How you end up with a huge debt in GET is to close it, because you (then wouldn’t) … have new people coming in to pay for it,” he said.

Murray does acknowledge, however, that if tuition does continue to go up at double-digit rates, the program will face problems somewhere down the line.

“There is not a debt unless we continue to cut higher education and raise tuition,” Murray said.

Tom, too, wants to limit tuition increases, and said the GET program won’t be necessary if the days of double-digit increases end.

“The best policy that we can have for the middle class is a great tuition policy,” Tom said. “Let’s concentrate our efforts on funding the institutions directly.”

Murray believes the move to ax GET will only hurt the state in the long run by keeping some people out of higher education. “It’s (the proposal is) a travesty to young people who want to get into college, who come from families who can’t afford it,” he said.

But Tom said it’s time to get serious about overspending.

“We have a lot of liabilities that we keep piling on to this next generation,” he said. “At some point the credit cards get maxed out and that doesn’t work.”

GregoireOLYMPIA — Governor Gregoire issued her final budget for Washington state Tuesday in Olympia, and she leaves office with a call for $1 billion in new revenue for education, something that is required because of a recent state Supreme Court case.

“A budget that relies only on budget cuts does not build the future that I think is right for the people of Washington state,” Gregoire said.

By law, the governor is required to present a spending plan for the next biennium, even though she won’t be around to fight for it. She argues, however, that the new governor and the new legislature will have no choice but to come to the same conclusion she has, and that new money needs to be found.

“I don’t see any way anybody has to invest a billion in the k-12 system,” she said.  “The bill is here.  We have to do it.”

To generate $1 billion more for education, the governor continues a surcharge on beer, extends a business tax for services, and calls for a new gas tax – to the tune of $387 million — to pay for student transportation.

“It is our moral responsibility,” she said.

New education spending would include more early learning, more all-day kindergarten, and more evaluations. The budget also called for several hundred million dollars in cuts and efficencies, allowing her to put more money into the environment, transportation, and healthcare.

Many reacted to the budget proposal with enthusiasm.

“Pleased,” was the reaction of Julian Perez M.D. of SeaMar Health Centers. “I was very excited to hear that the Medicaid expansion would be embraced in this proposed budget.”

On the campaign trail, governor-elect Jay Inslee promised to hold the line on new taxes.  On Tuesday, Inslee issued a statement saying he would lay out his own budget priorities when the legislative session starts next month.

Some lawmakers held the line on their vow to block all new revenue. The Senate’s new lead budget writer, Republican Andy Hill, held the line on new revenue.

“What governor-elect Inslee said, he’s not going to raise taxes,” Hill said. “We’re taking him at his word.”

Hill said expected growth in the state budget should be adequate for fulfilling the supreme court’s education mandate.

“We’ve got $2.1 billion of  new revenue coming into the state,” Hill said. “It’s a matter of how are we gonna spend that and how are we going to prioritize our spending.”

Gregoire denied today that such approach could work.

“We cannot cut our way to funding a billion dollar investment in K-12,” she said.  “We cannot grow out way out in the next biennium to the tune of $1 billion to invest in this.”

GregoireOLYMPIA – Gov. Christine Gregoire will unveil her final budget proposal for 2013-2015 Tuesday morning.

In a statement she released, Gregoire recapped the cuts she had to make to government staff and benefits to steer the state through the Great Recession.

Stating that her “budget constrains the growth of government in most areas and includes additional reductions to dozens of programs,” she also emphasized that the budget would increase spending in some areas such as prison safety and early childhood education.

The budget also includes a proposal to extend two temporary taxes currently in place and deferring some spending obligations.

Investment in the area’s transportation development, such as the 520 bridge project, and maintanence of existing roadways are also part of the budget.

There will be more coverage on the governor’s final budget later today.

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