The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Brandon Cline
Reporter 

Area parks narrowly avoid shutdown

 


The Washington state government narrowly avoided a shutdown on June 30, as lawmakers in Olympia rushed to pass the 2017-19 budget through the statehouse after Republican and Democratic negotiators finally came to an agreement after months of posturing.

The two-year, $43.7 billion operating budget—which increases spending by 13.5 percent compared to the 2015-17 budget—was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday night, less than an hour before the state government would have begun to shut down. The shutdown would have affected state parks in Klickitat County on the weekend before July 4, including the Goldendale Observatory, Maryhill State Park, and Brooks Memorial State Park.

The budget was also required to satisfy the 2012 state Supreme Court order known as the McCleary decision, which stated that the state government was violating its own constitution by under-funding public schools. The budget adds $7.3 billion over four years for public education funding, with $1.8 billion being spent in the 2017-19 budget.

“I am proud to sign a historic budget that fully funds our schools for the first time in more than 30 years,” said Inslee in a press release. “This budget, at long last, meets our constitutional obligations to fully fund basic education, and addresses the responsibilities we have under the McCleary decision to equitably fund our schools.”

The budget increases the amount of property taxes that the state collects from property owners, while decreasing the amount of taxes that school districts can levy on them. Overall, those living in communities with higher property values can expect to pay more in taxes, while those living in communities with lower property values can expect to pay less.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal says the $7.3 billion in state funds would partially be offset by the loss of $3 billion in local levy funds.

“Adding this new funding is a solid start to building the education system our kids deserve and our economy needs,” said Reykdal in a press release. “The Legislature has now made the important turn to go beyond the bare minimums called for by the state Supreme Court—they are beginning the long work of transforming our schools with new resources that put kids and educators before partisan politics.”

14th Legislative District Reps. Gina McCabe and Norm Johnson both voted against the bill, which passed 70-23 in the House. State Sen. Curtis King voted for the bill, which passed 39-10 in the Senate.

The budget includes $618 million in raises for the state’s 95,000 employees. Most of those employees will receive a six percent raise through 2019, while some employees will receive raises substantial raises depending on their department and position.

$102 million will be spent to try and improve Washington’s mental health system, while $73 million will go towards increasing the number of college students who receive financial aid. Tuition at state colleges and universities is expected to rise about 2.2 percent.

A new paid leave program that would include 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child or serious family illness also had bipartisan support by lawmakers in both chambers. McCabe and King voted for the program, while Johnson voted against it.

Washington becomes the fifth state in the country to adopt paid family leave, with Inslee calling it “the most forward-thinking paid family and medical leave law in the nation.”

 

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