I’m excited today to talk about the news from the Legislature that we passed a budget and finished our second special session. After months of legislative work, an agreement was reached between the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) and Democrat leadership.
This was great news, as many government agencies were set to shut down in only a matter of hours if the agreement hadn’t been made when it was. In the end, the crisis was avoided and some significant budget reforms were made. Today I want to highlight just a couple:
Majority Coalition Caucus Prevents Major Tax Increases
The final bipartisan budget included no general fund tax increases. The proposals to extend some taxes set to expire and add other taxes were not part of the budget. Instead, we used additional money that came in unexpectedly from existing taxes coupled with spending cuts to balance the budget and live within our means. This was a huge victory for the Senate MCC as this was one of our primary goals.
Education is Made a Priority
The $33.6 billion operating budget put $1.6 billion in additional money into K-12 education in this 2013-2015 budget. Higher education also saw a large enough funding increase to allow for a total tuition freeze. It was exciting to see how, just after the budget passed, WSU announced it would rescind it’s planned 2% tuition increase for this coming academic year.
Although politicians always talk about putting education first, this year we showed Washington that this dream can be a reality. More will need to be done in the future to give educators more and better tools, but this budget’s reforms are a significant first step.
Bipartisanship is Still Alive in Washington
Lastly, I wanted to mention that I am very optimistic about our state’s future. What we know now that we didn’t know for sure several months ago when the MCC was formed is that a promise of cooperation for clear, shared goals can work. I am thankful for the hard work of MCC Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Medina), whose efforts held our coalition together, and for the Senate Democratic Caucus budget leader, Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam).
This budget does what our bipartisan coalition envisioned: it’s sustainable, puts education first and avoids the huge tax hikes that were proposed by others even at the risk of harming our slowly recovering state economy. It took a little longer than I would have liked to get there, but I think the final result was a good deal for the people of Washington.