KOMO: The new regional phasing for Washington state to re-open is underway.
But some are concerned the metrics in the new system for regions to move forward are not attainable.
Some business owners and lawmakers, such as Sen. John Braun said it’s a tall order getting from phase one to phase two with the new metrics.
Senate Republican Leader Sen. John Braun talked with KVI’s Kirby Wilbur about the upcoming legislative session. Topics included the budget, Gov. Inslee’s COVID restrictions, and getting kids back to school.
Following the Nov. 18 release of Washington’s final state-government revenue forecast for 2020, Sen. John Braun, who is Senate Republican budget leader and a member of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, responded to a reporter’s question and comments from other council members with detailed remarks about the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Republican proposals that have been ignored.
OLYMPIA… Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, offered this reaction to The Boeing Company’s decision to shift Washington-based work on its 787 jetliner to South Carolina:
“Washington has been incredibly fortunate to have Boeing as its largest employer. Of course we all would have preferred for this move to be in our state’s favor, knowing what it will mean for so many families and communities and other employers – and for the state budget. At the same time, no one should be slamming the company for making what is obviously a business decision. The COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions related to it have been the last straw for many businesses across Washington, not just Boeing.
“While our state is still the aerospace capital of the world, I do not want to sit by and watch this sector of our economy fall into decline the way non-aerospace manufacturing has during this century. No matter what else our state has to offer, the cost of doing business is ultimately the key to keeping employers and attracting new ones. Had we succeeded in lowering the tax rate on non-aerospace manufacturing a few years ago, it would have saved Boeing a big tax headache as well, and today’s decision might not have happened.
“This should give the Legislature incentive to take bold steps now to promote a brighter future for all manufacturing in Washington. Eliminating the manufacturing B&O tax would do much to secure the future of aerospace in our state and also provide a huge boost to all the other manufacturers who are trying to survive the economic fallout from the pandemic. That would be a smart move for the Legislature, and we should take it.”
Senate Majority Coalition Caucus members today introduced landmark reforms that would return state government to the role of primary provider for Washington’s K-12 schools while finally connecting school funding with the actual cost of educating students.
The MCC’s Education Equality Act is the first complete, ready-for-voting solution proposed by lawmakers since the state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington. The 2012 ruling highlighted what was already known: decades of putting other services ahead of schools caused Washington’s 295 school districts to rely too much on local property tax-levy money to cover costs that should be the state’s responsibility. The Legislature has until April 1 to agree on a new funding approach that takes effect before 2018.
Sen. John Braun, as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is the Senate budget leader, and was one of the MCC members to serve recently on a bipartisan Joint Education Funding Task Force. That group managed to obtain educator-compensation information that was denied to lawmakers for more than a year, and was one of the final pieces needed to complete the MCC plan.
Braun said the Education Equality Act would not only result in full state-level funding of public schools but also address factors that have made the K-12 system inequitable for students, teachers and taxpayers.
“Our plan is student-centered and teacher-friendly. It’s based on fair and transparent funding and promotes local control and accountability. By any credible measure, this is a progressive approach that should eliminate the educational-opportunity gap, and the associated social injustices, caused by inconsistent district-level funding,” said Braun, R-Centralia.
“It also responds to concerns teachers have about compensation, and the concerns districts have about hiring as well as the so-called ‘levy cliff.’ These issues are outside of the Legislature’s constitutional mandate but are part of the larger picture, so it makes sense to include them in our set of reforms,” he added.
Under the MCC plan, legislators set a statewide per-student funding level that puts Washington in the upper ranks nationally; require each school district to levy the same local property-tax rate and put that revenue toward the per-student amount; and allocate state funds to cover the difference between the per-student standard and the local funding.
The per-student funding level would be higher, and the state’s contribution would increase accordingly, to cover additional services for children who have special needs, or are homeless, or are not native English speakers.
The benefits of the Education Equality Act, Braun explained, include a consistent state investment in each Washington student regardless of ZIP Code, and an end to wild swings in local school-levy rates – caused by varying property values between districts – which are inequitable to taxpayers and contribute to disparities in teacher pay.
In addition, the MCC proposes ending the statewide pay grid that limits teacher compensation based on service years and education and does not account for the local cost of living. This would allow districts more flexibility and control when it comes to recruiting and retaining teachers.
“The governor and others talk about brand new taxes to pay for schools, even though revenue from an energy tax or a tax on certain forms of income can’t possibly qualify as the ‘regular and dependable’ source the Supreme Court expects,” Braun said. “Our plan relies on a traditional funding source that meets the ‘regular and dependable’ standard set by the Supreme Court, and is familiar to families and employers in our state.
“Making up for decades of inattention and the resulting inequities isn’t easy, but this approach checks all the boxes. It’s sweeping, it’s straightforward, and it’s sensible.”
Senate Majority leader Mark Schoesler recaps the news coverage of an historic session:
‘Historic’ tuition cut sets state apart from rest of U.S.
Seattle Times, June 13, 2015
Washington’s move isn’t well-known elsewhere in the country, but some say it could spur other states to think about cuts.
“I don’t know how widely known this proposal was,” said Dustin Weeden, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “If Washington gets lots of headlines, I really think a lot of people are going to be asking: ‘What’s going on in Washington? Why are they doing that?’ ”
Washington State Moves To Cut Public University Tuition By Up To 20 Percent
“A decision this week to cut tuition for Washington state’s public universities by 15 to 20 percent over the next two years is a rare move that national experts believe could influence other states as they come out from under the recession. … The tuition cut was a Republican legislative priority this year that [Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy] Hill said has been wildly popular.”
World Editorial Board | Yes, a tuition cut
Wenatchee World, July 5, 2015
It is an astounding, attention-getting move. No other state has had the courage to try it. It is a pay hike for the middle class, future debt relief for students and a significant boost for accessibility to higher education.
Legislature OKs new budget with rare tuition cuts and pay raises for teachers
Seattle Times, June 29, 2015
No other state has cut tuition for its public universities and colleges for the coming academic year, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
World Editorial Board | A state budget worth the wait
“The Washington Legislature at long last passed and the governor signed a two-year operating budget. It is a budget with strong bipartisan support, hailed by leaders of both parties, praised in House, Senate and governor’s office, described as one of the most innovative and satisfying budgets in memory. It almost could be forgotten that the budget deal came only after an excruciating six months of stalemate, maneuver and special sessions.”
GOP tuition cuts a breath of fresh political air
We’re now the laboratory for two social experiments: the $15 minimum wage, and big cuts to college tuition. What’s unique is they come from opposite sides of the political spectrum.
That it was Republicans who just scored what is believed to be the biggest college tuition cut in state history is a startling development.
“Over the years the state’s colleges had been defunded by the Democrats. It was part of a strategy called “high-tuition, high financial aid.” The colleges could increase tuition, while the cash-strapped state would focus on financial aid for needier students instead of giving a rich subsidy to everyone. …It was surprisingly the Republicans who launched a drive to reverse this privatization trend. In particular it was Baumgartner and Oak Harbor Sen. Barbara Bailey, joined later by freshman senator John Braun of Centralia.”
Editorial: Lower tuition boon to access higher education
“The decision by the Legislature to slash tuition at public universities by 15 to 20 percent was a bold and prudent move that puts public higher education on the right path.”
Ron Judd, Columnist
Seattle Times, July 3, 2015:
The Legislature’s slashing of tuition at public universities is one of the few things state government has gotten right in the past decade. Kudos to the GOP legislators who made it happen.
The forever session: In which Republicans are winning
“Credit Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. Under his leadership; the 26-member caucus displayed a rigid discipline and it paid off as its factions of conservatives and moderates can claim an important political victory or three this session.
“They beat down a capital gains tax and beat back a low-carbon fuel standard. They warded off cap-and-trade and minimum wage. They approved a gas tax hike — more than once — and many of their members are smiling about it. And the nation knows Senate Republicans drafted the unprecedented cut in tuition for students at public colleges and universities.
“It’s hard to see how it could have turned out much better for them.”
World Editorial Board | Yes, a tuition cut
“It is an astounding, attention-getting move. No other state has had the courage to try it. It is a pay hike for the middle class, future debt relief for students and a significant boost for accessibility to higher education. The Washington Legislature has voted to cut tuition at public universities by 15-20 percent by 2016. Community college tuition will be cut 5 percent.”