The budget proposal released by the Senate yesterday invests $1 billion less than the House proposal. It shortchanges critical investments in our state’s children, workers, and families.
The House proposal released last week raised new revenue to meet Washington state’s obligation to fund K-12 education, as well as other essential investments in early learning, mental health, social programs, and environmental protections. The Senate does not raise new revenue. Instead, it relies on fund transfers and reductions to balance the budget, and it gives away more money in wasteful tax breaks.
The biggest areas of difference between the House and Senate proposed budgets include:
- Revenue: The House proposes to raise an additional $1.5 billion in equitable and stable revenue to support investments in education, health, and well-being for Washingtonians. Rather than raising new revenue the Senate proposes to waste $114 million in state funds on new or re-enacted tax breaks, including the re-enactment of a tax break for business research and development activities that was recommended for expiration by a citizen commission charged with reviewing tax breaks.
- Transfers from other accounts: The Senate budget relies on $671 million in transfers from other accounts, including using $296 million in marijuana revenues to fund education, and raiding $200 million from the Public Works Assistance Account which funds local infrastructure like sewer and water projects. The House budget also transfers funding from other accounts, but a much more modest amount of $97 million.
- Investments: The House makes much-needed investments in our workforce, mental health services, early learning, and support for families experiencing difficult financial times. The Senate budget neglects to address many of the pressing needs of Washingtonians and our economy, either failing to invest in these services or doing so at a much lower amount. The Senate also relies on $50 million in reductions through unspecified cuts intended to be achieved through LEAN management, a strategy that has not yielded the level of anticipated savings in the past.
The tables below detail some of the largest programmatic differences between the House and Senate budget proposals.
While the House and Senate budgets are largely aligned on their investment in K-12 public schools to meet McCleary obligations, the House invests more in teachers and early learning. The Senate proposes to enact a new tuition policy at our public colleges and universities that aims to reduce tuition while also reducing student financial aid.
The House makes modest investments in economic security, such as food assistance and support to help parents find and keep a job. The Senate takes the opposite approach, making cuts to vital services that support Washingtonians struggling through difficult financial times.
Overall, both the House and Senate invest more in the health of Washington state’s people and environment, but the House investments are much more robust. When it comes to protecting our air, water, and land, however, both budgets fall short.
Workers get a bad deal in the Senate budget. The agreements reached between workers and the state during collective bargaining are rejected in the Senate budget and replaced with a flat across-the-board wage increase. This approach undermines workers and the collective bargaining process. It would force workers back to the table to renegotiate with the state.
When it comes to raising the resources needed to maintain investments in schools, health care, and safety, the budgets could not be further apart. The House proposes to raise stable, equitable revenue to ensure the future prosperity of our state. The Senate takes the opposite approach, spending $114 million on wasteful tax breaks.
In raising new revenue, the House budget proposal takes a big step in the right direction by beginning to address our broken revenue system. The additional resources would allow our state to meet the obligation to adequately fund K-12 education. And it would not do so at the expense of other critical investments, like those for high-quality early learning, affordable higher education, and clean air. The Senate’s decision to ignore our broken revenue system puts Washingtonians and the economy at risk by further hindering the state’s ability to invest in our future.
*The titles of each section link you to the corresponding section of our new Progress Index. Each section of our Index provides detailed analysis about how the state budget should invest in these critical areas.