State budget is all about better education for our children

By Rep. John Lovick | Jan 04, 2018

The budgets we pass in the state capitol aren’t merely page after page of numbers. Those numbers represent real children in real schools, here in the 44th District and in every corner of the great state of Washington.

Those numbers matter to all of our families and to the future of our state.

When lawmakers go back to Olympia this month, we will wrestling with two critical budgets: (1) The state’s operating budget, which pays for basics like education and health care; and (2) The construction budget, which builds schools, colleges and state parks.

It’s a lot like your family budget, where you pay all the monthly bills (operating budget) and the mortgage on your house (construction budget).

Here’s what is happening on the state operating budget:

The state Supreme Court recently ruled that lawmakers did the right thing in adding billions of dollars for public schools. Where the justices had a problem is in the timing. They want lawmakers to speed up $1 billion in education funding.

What this means is lawmakers in the House and Senate need to work with the governor to find that extra $1 billion earlier than we planned.

There are three basic ways to find that money: cut services, raise revenue or tap the rainy day fund.

It’s incredibly hard, if not impossible, to find $1 billion in cuts. Education is the biggest part of the budget, and you can’t cut public schools in order to free up more money for those same schools. Other parts of the budget are off-limits for cuts because they’re tied to constitutional or federal requirements. On paper, you could cut one billion by doing things like shutting down state prisons or universities—but it’s not a real option.

Raising revenue is always hard and usually takes support from Republicans and Democrats in both chambers. Getting that agreement takes hard negotiations. In 2017, it took special sessions that stretched far into the summer to strike a compromise on the Senate Republican plan to raise property taxes.

The third option—tapping the state’s rainy day fund—is what Gov. Jay Inslee has suggested in his proposed budget. There is far more than a billion dollars in the state rainy day fund and a separate reserve fund.

This is a viable way to bridge the gap, to meet the immediate needs of our public schools, per the Supreme Court ruling, until we can come back for the 2019 session to write a new two-year budget.

And here’s what is important about the state construction budget:

*The greatest failure of the 2017 session is that for the first time in our state’s history, lawmakers did not pass a state construction budget. Senate Republicans held up the budget for unrelated water legislation related to a court ruling and tribal water rights.

*Not having a construction budget has killed jobs and harmed taxpayers. Tens of thousands of construction workers should have been busy building colleges, parks and schools. And taxpayers will pay more since work stopped on many projects before they were completed. We’ll have to rebid those contracts and pay more, which is unfortunate.

Gov. Inslee is right to say that passing the construction budget should be the first order of business when lawmakers get back to work this month. This isn’t just about creating jobs and doing right by taxpayers. It’s about education.

The construction budget includes a record $1 billion in funding to build public schools and $800 million to build public colleges and universities.

Those numbers mean new elementary and high schools in the 44th District and around our state. It means kids having real classrooms instead of overcrowded portables. And it means more space at our colleges and universities so our kids and grandkids have a chance at earning a college degree, the best ticket to the American Dream.

If we work together on the state operating budget and construction budget, we can put men and women in hard hats back to work, building schools and colleges, while finishing the job of fully funding our public schools.

That’s a lot to do in a short session, and it won’t be easy. But our kids are worth it.

Rep. John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) served in the Coast Guard and State Patrol before being elected Snohomish County Sheriff and Snohomish County Executive. He is a proud father, grandfather as well as a volunteer in our local schools.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.