Now comes the hard part on I-1351: How is state going to pay to reduce class sizes, hire more teachers?
SEATTLE — Supporters of Washington state Initiative 1351 to lower class sizes are now declaring victory after more votes were counted in King County.
Despite the win, however, there are new questions about whether the measure will even be implemented. Some lawmakers doubt that there’s enough money to do the job.
“We’re not going to be able to do it without having the revenue to do it,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the state House Budget Committee.
Legislators are already under a state Supreme Court mandate stemming from the McCleary v. Washington case to add at least $3 billion over the next four years to education.
The math quickly gets brutal when you add the voter requirements of I-1351, which is estimated to cost another $5 billion over the same time period.
Some speculate that the Legislature will have to suspend I-1351 because of lack of funds. Doing so would require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers. After two years, only a majority vote would be required.
“It will be very difficult to change,” said Hunter, who voted against the initiative. “But it’s also very difficult to imagine a scenario where you could raise enough taxes to pay for it, or cut enough out of the social service budget in order to pay for it. Either of those things seem very, very hard to do.”
Hunter said that lawmakers are likely to be more focused on funding the McCleary mandates than the I-1351 mandates. “We run the risk of the court not just holding us in contempt but of actually invalidating the budget,” he said. “That would be a more significant risk.”
The new legislative session starts in January.