Schmudget Blog

Legislature Pays for Increased Costs Related to Fires, Lawsuits in Supplemental Budget

Posted by Kim Justice at Feb 12, 2015 09:30 PM |
Filed under: State Budget

The Washington state House and Senate have approved $143 million in additional state funding for the 2013-15 budget cycle. The investments address the increased need for firefighting and foster care services as well as the court-mandated need to fund compensation for in-home care workers and treatment services for people with mental illness.

The current budget cycle began on July 1, 2013, and ends June 30, 2015. The 2015 Supplemental Budget, or “second supplemental budget,” allows lawmakers to make adjustments to the originally-enacted spending plan based on changes in revenue or additional funding needs.

Specifically, this budget responds to the following needs that arose in the last several months:

  • Wildfires: During the summer of 2014, Washington state saw an increase in the number and size of wildfires, draining existing resources for firefighting efforts. Additional funding is now provided for incurred costs associated with combating the fires and natural disasters, including the Oso landslide.
  • Treatment for people with mental illness: In August, the State Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to detain people in need of mental health services in hospital emergency rooms — a practice that has occurred because there is a shortage of appropriate treatment facilities. Additional funding has been added to provide appropriate treatment for those in need of mental health services.
  • In-home care worker compensation: In another court ruling, the state is required to compensate in-home care workers — who provide services for seniors and people with disabilities — for cuts to their pay that occurred between 2003 and 2007.
  • Services for children and youth in foster care: Additional investments are included in the budget to serve 18- to 21-year-olds in extended foster care and to provide court-ordered, supervised visits between children in foster care and their families.  

To meet these funding needs, lawmakers have invested $66 million from the state’s general fund and $77 million from the Budget Stabilization Account, or “Rainy Day Fund,” for fires and natural disasters. The budget now heads to the Governor's desk

With the budget for the 2013-15 cycle wrapped up, lawmakers now turn their full attention to writing the budget for the 2015-17 budget cycle.


Senate “Education by Starvation” Proposal Proves that New Revenue is Needed

Posted by Kim Justice at Jan 13, 2015 07:30 PM |
Filed under: State Budget, Education

An education- funding proposal scheduled for a hearing today by the Senate Ways & Means Committee fails in its goal to fund education while also forcing deep cuts to investments that kids and families need to be successful and secure. This measure is a distraction from the central problem facing Washington state policymakers today – the state’s flawed, 1930s era revenue system. Passing it now would simply pawn tough choices off on future policymakers and Washingtonians.

Rather than raising additional resources to meet the needs of our state, Senate Bill 5063 proposes to rearrange existing, insufficient resources by dedicating two-thirds of all state revenue growth to education for the next 10 years. That’s tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

As the graph shows, if this rigid formula were in place in the coming biennium, it would fall $2.5 billion short of making statutory and court-ordered investments in education. Simply diverting two-thirds of revenue growth to education ($1.8 billion) would not come close to providing the $4.3 billion in resources needed to fund increased enrollments, implement voter-approved initiatives, and make McCleary investments.

ed starve2

Additionally, SB 5063 would result in disastrous cuts to public health, safety, childcare, and services for seniors. The graph shows that resources available for all non-education spending ($900 million) would fall $500 million short of what’s needed to maintain current commitments in these and other investments that support a successful educational experience for kids.

Without raising new revenue, we can’t meet our required spending obligations, let alone make additional investments that make college more affordable, provide high-quality early learning for children, treat people suffering from mental illness, or give public employees a pay increases. 

The real challenge facing lawmakers is our outdated revenue system that fails to keep pace with the state’s economy. Although revenues will be higher in the 2015-17 biennium when compared to the current budget cycle, when it comes to tracking economic activity, tax revenue is in decline and will continue to fall without significant reforms. 

Enacting a capital gains tax, as proposed by Governor Inslee, would significantly boost revenue while impacting less than one percent of Washington households, almost exclusively those earning more than $490,000 a year. That’s the kind of solution Washingtonians need- one that  begins to equalize the playing field for who pays taxes and ensures that we can afford to invest in a high quality of life for everyone in the state. 


Senate Ways & Means Chair Releases Budget Analysis- Clear Nod to Forthcoming Budget Proposal by Senate

Posted by Kim Justice at Jan 09, 2015 11:05 PM |
Filed under: State Budget

Updated January 12, 2015

Senate Ways & Means Chair Andy Hill has released a budget analysis that turns a blind eye to our state’s revenue problems and fails to reflect the true needs of Washingtonians and our economy. 

Responsible, non-ideological fiscal analysis bears out that we have a budget deficit. Hill’s budget analysis is a clear nod to a forthcoming budget proposal by the Senate.

The proposal incorrectly claims that new revenue is not needed in the upcoming budget cycle. Accepting this myth comes at a great cost- without new revenue, we can’t make needed (and in some cases, mandated) investments in education, health, and the economy. As we have shown, our resources will fall dramatically short of the amount we need to adequately fund schools, health care, child care, and other important investments in the next two years.

What’s the price we pay for failing to raise revenue and neglecting needed investments?

Cost of postponing progress on education funding:  Delayed educational opportunities for over 1 million children and a bigger cost next biennium   

Needed investment in 2015-17: At least $2 billion 

Under the State Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2012 McCleary case, lawmakers are required to invest billions more in K-12 education in order to comply with our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. The legislature has repeatedly been chastised by the court for failing to make meaningful progress and is currently being held in contempt. Despite this court-ordered mandate, Senator Hill’s proposal would put off making progress on two important education reforms: providing full day kindergarten and lowering class sizes in grades K-3, which is estimated to cost about $520 million over the next two years to continue phasing-in implementation. 

While the deadline for fully funding these reforms does not come due until the 2017-18 school year, delaying these investments denies opportunities for today’s children and simply kicks the can down the road. Additionally, the State Supreme Court has indicated that failing to make progress on basic education investments will likely trigger sanctions. 

Voters also approved Initiative 1351, which will ultimately add over 25,000 school staff, including teachers, principals, counselors, librarians, grounds-keepers. The initiative is expected to cost $1.6 billion over the next two years, on top of the other McCleary-required education investments.

Cost of neglecting to fund mental health services: Putting the health and safety of Washingtonians in jeopardy

Needed investment in 2015-17: At least $65 million

Our mental health system fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Washingtonians, resulting in the warehousing of patients in hospital emergency rooms. Earlier this year, the State Supreme Court ruled that this practice is unconstitutional and is a practice that cannot continue in 2015. In spite of the urgency to meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness, Senator Hill’s proposal does not include additional funding and simply ignores this State Supreme Court ruling.

Cost of failing to invest in our state’s workforce: Compromising our ability to retain and attract skilled workers

Needed investment in 2015-17: Approximately $500 million

Public employees provide care for seniors, people with disabilities and children, help keep children safe from abuse and neglect, and educate our workforce. Most of these employees have not had a pay increase in seven years, and Senator Hill’s proposal puts off increases for at least an additional two years. While pay increases are not mandatory, delaying them any longer will adversely impact retention and the state’s ability to attract workers who provide important services that benefit all Washingtonians. 

Cost of ignoring a failing revenue system that will only get worse: Billions of dollars in lost revenue that should be invested in Washingtonians 

Needed reform in 2015-17: Enact a capital gains tax

Washington state fails to raise adequate resources due to our heavy reliance on a retail sales tax which cannot keep pace with our economy. As the graph shows, economic activity captured by the state’s sales tax is shrinking and will continue to do so unless we make significant changes. The Senate Ways and Means Chair ignores this reality while also pushing significant costs- for education, employee pay, and mental health- into the future. This simply does not add up. Additional revenue is needed to adequately invest in the things all Washingtonians care about- from education, to health care, to public safety. Enacting a capital gains tax, as Governor Inslee proposed in his budget, would significantly improve our ability to raise resources.

sales tax

Cost of neglecting the needs of Washingtonians and our economy: PRICELESS

Buying into the myth that new revenue is not needed to adequately invest in our most important public priorities is harmful to our economy and to all of us. Without new revenue, we won’t be able to provide high quality early learning experiences for children, make college affordable, keep communities safe, or make other important investments that create a strong economy. New revenue is vital to a strong, thriving and prosperous Washington state.



New Report Confronts Racial Inequity in Washington State

Posted by Kim Justice at Jan 07, 2015 09:30 PM |
Filed under: State Budget, Equity

People of color in Washington state are challenged by a system that limits their access to equal opportunities, such as a high quality education, good jobs, and quality health care. A report released today, Facing Race, provides a detailed analysis showing how stark racial inequality is in Washington state and outlines what lawmakers can do to reverse the trends.

The conditions for a strong economy and high quality of life are ripe when our workforce is healthy and engaged, people have opportunities to obtain an education, and all communities are represented in decision-making. But these opportunities are not shared equally. For example:

  • A good job is the foundation for economic security, but Black and Latino workers have higher rates of unemployment and are more likely to be in a job that pays a lower wage than the overall population.
  • Good health is central to a good quality of life, yet nearly one in three Latinos and one in four American Indians and Alaska Natives lack health care coverage.
  • A high-quality early learning experience is crucial to a child’s future, yet three out of four Latino children are not enrolled in preschool.
  • Higher levels of education equate to better job security and increased wages,  but Latinos, American Indians, and Alaska Natives face the biggest hurdles to college enrollment.
  • A strong democracy is dependent on equal representation, but the racial and ethnic composition of the State Legislature does not reflect the state’s diversity. People of color comprise 29 percent of the state’s population, but less than 10 percent of the State Legislature (see graphics). 

1 in 3

leg by race

The good news is that lawmakers can take steps to increase access to opportunity and reduce inequality. The Facing Race report outlines 20 recommendations for lawmakers in the 2015 legislative session, including raising the state’s minimum wage, fully restoring food assistance, and permanently eliminating the death penalty.

As our state continues to become more racially diverse, we cannot allow gaps in opportunity to continue to limit the economic well-being and quality of life of Washingtonians. Letting any group fall behind is detrimental to the prosperity of our state.

Click here to read the full report.


Governor offers Realistic, Responsible Approach to State Budget

Posted by Kim Justice at Dec 19, 2014 12:05 AM |
Filed under: State Budget

Updated January 15, 2015

By Kim Justice and Andy Nicholas

Governor Inslee proposes to invest in Washingtonians and our economy over the next two years through a healthy balance of revenue, cuts, fund shifts, and reserves (see graph). Over half of the budget solution (57 percent) would come from tax increases that will make our revenue system more equitable and sustainable over time – a much-needed response after years of deep budget cuts undermining progress for workers, families, businesses, and the economy.

gov budget 

A Budget that Invests in Washingtonians

While the Governor’s proposal does include some cuts, on balance it invests in the most important needs of our state, including:

  • $2.3 billion in new investments in education from birth to career, including resources targeted to closing the opportunity gap;
  • Increased space to treat people in need of mental health services;
  • First wage increase for state workers in seven years;
  • Increased funding for state parks; and
  • Additional staff to respond to reports of child abuse or neglect.

New Revenue Plan Brings Greater Equity and Sustainability to the Budget

The Governor’s sustainable revenue plan would raise $1.4 billion during the upcoming two-year budget cycle. These new resources would be generated by:

  • Adopting a new capital gains excise tax that would be paid by less than 1 percent of Washingtonians, almost exclusively those at the very top of the income scale. For more information see this “frequently asked questions” document about taxing capital gains;
  • Closing ineffective tax breaks for nonresident shoppers, oil refineries, and other products and industries;
  • Dedicating revenues from proposed efforts to reduce carbon pollution; and
  • Increasing taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

The Governor also proposes to enact about $94 million per two-year budget cycle in new tax breaks, which will be examined in future schmudget posts. Details on each of these actions are included below.

The Governor’s proposal represents a realistic, responsible approach to meeting the educational needs of our children, keeping families safe and secure, and improving our economy. Lawmakers should take the Governor’s lead and raise new revenue. Doing otherwise would be impractical and irresponsible.


Appendix: Tax Action details.

Enacting a new 7 percent excise tax on high-end capital gains ($798 million): Capital gains are profits from the sale of financial assets, mostly corporate stocks and bonds. Similar to the Budget & Policy Center’s proposal, the Governor proposes to tax capital gains in excess of $50,000 per year for a married couple ($25,000 for singles). Less than one percent of Washingtonians have capital gains above this amount. 

Dedicating revenues from proposed efforts to reduce carbon pollution ($508 million): A portion of proceeds from the sale of carbon allowances – part of the Governor’s proposals to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change  – would be dedicated to education programs. Some of these revenues would also be used to fund the Working Families Tax Rebate (link), which is a Washington state version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit that would reduce taxes for some 435,000 households from Aberdeen to Spokane.

Increasing the cigarette tax by 50-cents per pack ($38 million): The proposed change would increase the cigarette tax to $3.525 per pack from $3.025 per pack.

Enact a new excise tax on “e-cigarettes” and vapor products ($18.1 million): Under current law, e-cigarettes are subject to the general retail sales tax, but not the cigarette tax or the Other Tobacco Products (OTP) tax. The governor proposes to apply a new  excise tax to e-cigarettes equal to 95 percent of their sales price; the same rate applied to cigars, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco..

Applying the sales tax to the trade-in value of cars worth over $10,000 ($105.3 million): Under current law, when a used car is traded-in as part of the purchase of new car, the value of trade in is exempt from the state sales tax. The governor proposes to apply the sales tax to trade-ins to the extent the trade-in value exceeds $10,000. The average value of a traded-in vehicle is $7,500 in Washington state, according to the Department of Revenue, meaning the majority of consumers would not be impacted by this change.

Repealing a use tax break for oil refineries ($51 million): A sales tax break originally intended for manufacturers and sawmills is now almost exclusively claimed by oil refineries (link). The governor proposes to eliminate the break for oil refineries but leave the tax break in place for sawmills.

Modifying a sales tax break for nonresident shoppers ($51.5 million): Under current law, residents of other states that have low or no state sales tax are exempt from Washington state’s sales tax (e.g., Oregon). The governor proposes to turn the exemption into an annual rebate program, in which. nonresident shoppers would be able to file for a refund if their total annual state sales tax payments are $25 or more.

Repeal the sales tax exemption on bottled water ($44 million): Until 2004, the state sales tax applied to purchases of bottled water. However, when policymakers enacted a law designed to harmonize Washington state’s sales tax with those in other states, bottled water became exempt. Since then, the agreement between states to harmonize their sales taxes – the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) – has been modified to allow states to collect sales taxes on bottled water. Although, specifics are not yet available, it is likely the proposal would maintain the exemption for people that do not have access to potable water.

Repeal the preferential B&O tax rate on royalty payments ($44 million): As of 1998, royalty income – payments from licensing brand names, software, and other intangible property – are subject to a preferential business and occupation (B&O) tax rate of 0.484 percent. In 2010, as part of an effort to prohibit businesses from avoiding paying B&O taxes on royalties altogether, policymakers allowed businesses to pay the tax only on the portion of income that occurred in Washington state, rather than all of their royalty income, as had been the case previously. The governor proposes to continue to allow businesses to pay B&O taxes only on royalty income tied to Washington state, but to eliminate the preferential rate and tax royalties at the 1.5 percent rate paid by other finance-related businesses.


Governor Proposes $2.3 Billion for Education from Birth to Career

Posted by Kim Justice at Dec 16, 2014 03:20 PM |
Filed under: State Budget, Education

Governor Inslee kicked off his week of budget roll-outs by unveiling his plan to invest an additional $2.3 billion in education (see graph). These investments would nearly double the state’s early learning spending, fully fund most education reforms, and make college more accessible for students from low- income backgrounds.(1) Many aspects of the proposal target resources to students with low incomes, a disproportionate share of whom are students of color- helping to narrow the opportunity gap.

ed plan

Early Learning- $156 million

The most critical time of learning begins at birth. The Governor’s boost to early learning would allow 6,358 more three- and four-year olds from low-income backgrounds to attend preschool. The quality of child care would be improved through an increase in funding to implement a quality rating and improvement system and training in effective teaching strategies. Additionally, more families would receive home visiting, which provides families with the resources and skills they need to raise healthy children; and 1,500 more children with special needs would receive intervention services. These investments are a strong start to providing all kids with the foundation they need to be successful adults.

K-12 public schools - $2 billion (2)

Lawmakers are on the hook by the State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling to fully fund basic education reforms by 2018. Governor Inslee proposes to fulfill the majority of that obligation ahead of schedule in the upcoming budget cycle. Under his plan, in the 2016-17 school year, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade would shrink to no more than 17 students per class and all students would receive full-day kindergarten. Funding enhancements that cover the cost of maintenance, supplies, and operating costs (MSOC) at schools would also be fully funded. The Governor’s plan does not, however, fund lower class sizes above third grade, as required by Initiative 1351.

Increasing teacher pay is an important component of fully funding basic education, and an area that the court specifically called out. While bringing teacher salaries in-line with the labor market is likely to require a sizable investment, Governor Inslee proposes a small start by giving teachers a raise above the cost-of-living increases required by law. Teachers would receive a three percent increase in pay in the 2015-16 school year and a 1.8 percent increase in the 2016-17 school year.

Beyond these required enhancements, the Governor proposes investments that increase opportunity for students from low-income backgrounds who don’t currently have the resources to succeed. Targeted resources to high-poverty schools would provide more family engagement in learning, increased mentorship, nutritious meals, services to keep kids in school and reduce suspensions, and wrap around services to support the entire family.

College and beyond- $156 million

In today’s world, a degree or certificate is necessary to succeed in the job market. But too often students find college to be a distant, unaffordable dream. By continuing the freeze on tuition increases for the next two years, the Governor’s plan puts the brakes on increased tuition costs for students. Additional funding will allow more high school students with low incomes and students pursuing a degree in health care or STEM to get the financial aid they need. These are important investments, but more is needed to reduce tuition costs that have skyrocketed in the last few years- which has resulted in Washington state students experiencing the second largest tuition increase in the nation.

To get more people back to work, an increase in our state’s I-BEST program- which integrates basic education with job training- will help 800 individuals get the skills they need to get a job.

Much of the Governor’s plan targets funding across the education pipeline towards investments that will have to the most bang-for-the-buck and go to students who need it the most. This approach would begin to close the inequities that children face depending on their race, ethnicity, income, and where they live- exactly what’s needed to put Washingtonians on a solid foundation and make our economy strong again.

Stay tuned for more analysis, including the Governor’s full budget and revenue plan which is scheduled to be released on Thursday, December 18th.

(1)    Nearly doubles state funding for early learning in the Department of Early Learning

(2)    Includes $236 million for I-732 teacher COLA’s which are required by law and included in the maintenance level and the state’s share of pension ($200 million) which is included in the maintenance level. The investments in MSOC ($750 million) are required by current law.

Revenue Forecast Shows it’s Time to Get Real: We Can’t Cut our Way to McCleary

Posted by Kim Justice at Nov 19, 2014 03:20 PM |
Filed under: State Revenue, Education

Updated 11/24/2014 to reflect most recent McCleary cost estimates. Costs are down slightly from projected JTFEF estimates due to lower inflation and minor policy changes.

Washington state tax resources will fall $4.5 billion short of the amount needed to adequately fund schools, health care, child care, and other important investments in the next two years, according to new projections from the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Committee.

Some say we can cut non-education investments in order to free-up resources for basic education. In reality, policymakers must find new sources of revenue to make all the investments we need to support a strong economy in Washington state.

Today’s revenue forecast, which Governor Inslee will use to build his upcoming budget proposal, shows available tax resources will be $115 million higher than previously forecasted during the current 2013-15 budget cycle, and $272 million higher in the 2015-17 cycle. 

While the growth in revenues is good news, the new resources are negligible in comparison to the additional spending needs required in the next two years. These include (see graph):

  • Maintaining schools, health care, public safety, and other services ($1.9 billion): The cost to continue providing the same level of services grows year after year due to inflation, rising fuel and energy costs, increases in the number of kids in our schools, and changing demographics such as the aging of baby boomers. 
  • Legal obligations ($1 billion): The state is legally required to pay pensions, debt we owe on bonds that support infrastructure improvements, increases in health care costs for state employees, and cost-of-living increases for teachers (I-732), which were suspended in previous years, but are required by law going forward.
  • Critical policy needs ($1 billion): Some policy decisions, which are at the discretion of the legislature, will be difficult to forego. For example, earlier this year the State Supreme Court ruled that detaining patients with mental illness in hospital emergency rooms is unconstitutional. In order to comply with the order, the legislature will need to increase capacity in treatment facilities. Additionally, collectively bargained agreements between the executive branch and employees will likely be on the table for lawmakers to consider. State employees have gone six years without a pay increase. Delaying any longer will adversely impact retention and the ability to attract workers.
  • McCleary education investments ($1.7 billion): Lawmakers must invest billions more in K-12 education to comply with the State Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary v Washington case. According to estimates by the Joint Task Force on Education Funding, lawmakers should invest an additional $1.7 billion in the next two years to remain on-track to meet the 2018 full funding deadline.(1)
  • Initiative 1351 ($1.6 billion): Voters approved Initiative 1351 in November that will ultimately add over 25,000 school staff, including teachers, principals, counselors, librarians, grounds-keepers. There is some overlap with the already-enacted education reforms to lower class sizes in K-3, as part of complying with McCleary. Assuming lawmakers continue to phase-in McCleary investments, an additional $1.6 billion will be needed for I-1351. 

outlook nov 24

All told, the state will fall about $4.5 billion short of the revenue needed to make these investments. While some claim we can cut our way to McCleary compliance, reality says otherwise.

Two-thirds of the budget is protected by either the state Constitution or federal laws and cannot be cut. The remaining third of the budget includes funding for community colleges and universities, public safety, nutritional assistance, help for people with disabilities, childcare, housing, services for foster children, and supports that help people find jobs. Severe cuts to these investments would do great damage to the state economy and would impose devastating costs on struggling families from Sequim to Spokane.

Rather than being distracted by math games that don’t add up, lawmakers should get serious about raising revenue.

 1. Estimates have been updated to include cost-projections for the 2015-17 biennium from the Office of Program Research;

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