$2 Billion Hole Blown In Brand New 2015-17 Budget

Published July 1, 2015

Around 11:30 p.m. last night (30 minutes before a government shutdown) Governor Inslee signed the state’s 2015-17 budget. Though the new budget is only a few hours old, there is already a $2 billion cloud hanging over it. Although the House kept up its end of the budget deal by suspending the unfunded class size reduction initiative (I-1351), around 6 a.m. this morning the Senate Democrats failed to live up to the deal by refusing to vote for the suspension unless the Senate passed a different bill first. As reported by the Tacoma News Tribune:

Democrats said they could muster the required votes if Senate Republicans would approve a school testing reform bill that already cleared the House. Among other things, that legislation would remove a requirement that students pass a biology test or an approved alternative to graduate from high school, which supporters said would help 2,000 of this year’s seniors earn a diploma.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said Tuesday that some Senate Democrats didn’t want to scale back the I-1351 class-size reductions unless they made other changes they thought would help students.

‘There are some members who are saying, if I’m doing something that hurts kids, I want to be able to help kids somehow,’ Billig said.

A deal wasn’t in sight Wednesday, though, as the Senate adjourned until noon Friday.

‘It’s extortion,’ said Schoesler, the Senate majority leader, about the Democratic demands for the testing bill.

Alluding to the breakdown of the budget deal on I-1351, Sen. Fain tweeted this morning:

Governing demands hard choices and standing by your word. Can’t own a success if unwilling to do what’s necessary to make it possible #waleg

Earlier this year legislative Democratic leaders said the legislature should suspend I-1351 rather than sending it back to the voters to reconsider as the Senate GOP originally proposed.

With the 2015-17 budget already signed into law and the new Fiscal Year already underway, did the Legislature comply with the state’s 4yr balanced budget requirement when adopting the budget without first suspending I-1351?

As the 4yr outlook shows, without suspension of I-1351 both the current Fiscal Year and the last year of the 2015-17 budget project to be in deficit.

Once TVW video of this morning’s Senate meltdown of the budget deal by failing to pass the I-1351 suspension is available I will post the link here.

Jason Mercier ([email protected]) is Director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center.

An earlier version of this article appeared at http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/blog/post/2-billion-hole-blown-brand-new-2015-17-budget/. Reprinted with permission.