Schmudget Blog

State’s strong bump in projected revenue will allow lawmakers to devote more funding to schools

Posted by Kelli Smith at Feb 15, 2018 07:35 PM |

The state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s latest revenue forecast shows that lawmakers are within striking distance of meeting the minimum school funding requirements established by the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. But even with positive projections, building the high-quality schools our kids and grandkids deserve without cutting other important investments will require lawmakers to go beyond the bare minimum. To fund schools – and ensure a brighter future for all Washingtonians – lawmakers still need to focus on fixing the state’s upside-down tax code. 

According to the forecast, revenues are up $628 million for the current budget cycle – a significant increase over past forecasts. And while that amount is not enough on its own to cover the Supreme Court-mandated cost of funding schools by the start of the 2018 school year, it does put a solution within reach for lawmakers. That is as long as they take reasonable steps to clean up the tax code.

In his supplemental budget proposal late last year, Governor Inslee recognized the need for additional resources to meet the McCleary shortfall by proposing to use money from the state’s rainy day fund now and replenishing part of it with revenue from a carbon-pricing proposal. While it’s not ideal to tap into the rainy day fund, this was nevertheless one reasonable way forward under the circumstances. With today’s positive revenue projections, lawmakers have more options on the table to ensure that all of Washington’s kids have access to an excellent education.

They should begin by cleaning up our tax code to generate resources to fund schools and other priorities. That means rejecting new tax giveaways to special interests and closing existing wasteful tax breaks, such as the tax break on capital gains – a $715 million annual giveaway to 2 percent of the wealthiest Washingtonians.

Washington’s school kids and teachers have had to make do with less for years while lawmakers have failed to provide adequate funding for schools. They have three more weeks this legislative session to make good on our state’s promise of an excellent education for every child. It’s past time for them to take meaningful steps to ensure they actually have the revenue to do so.

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