Supplemental budgets usually just tweak the biennial budget approved the previous year. But in 2018, thanks to savings/efficiencies and a strong economy that is generating desperately needed state revenue, SB 6032 was able to invest a substantial $941 million in schools, public safety, mental health, natural resources and to help vulnerable people. It also maintained a $2.4 billion reserve, the largest in state history, as a hedge against an economic downturn.
The biggest boost was $776 million dedicated to improving teacher salaries, which builds upon the progress made last year to address the McCleary decision. Improving K-12 teacher pay was a specific directive of that state Supreme Court order, and this money will accelerate that critically important effort.
“Thanks to the hard work and persistence of WEA members, we’ve won billions of dollars in new funding for education—mainly for competitive salaries so we can continue attracting and keeping caring, qualified and committed educators for our students,” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association. “Now is our opportunity to join together and negotiate substantial pay raises for all of our members.”
The 2018 supplemental budget also:
● Boosts investments in public health care and mental health by more than $200 million;
● Funds the expansion of the Public Safety Employees’ Retirement System to include workers in high-risk jobs at DSHS, veterans and correctional institutions. This was a priority for the Teamsters, WFSE/AFSCME Council 28, and SEIU HealthCare 1199NW;
● Funds an external audit of staffing levels at corrections facilities. Another priority for the Teamsters union, this is the first step in addressing clear understaffing issues at state prisons;
● Includes $28.2 million to fight and prevent wildfires; and
● Brings funding for the Labor Education and Research Center at South Seattle College up to $500,000.
The budget also cuts property taxes by $390 million over the next two years to mitigate the property tax increase proposed by Republicans in 2017 and included in the biennial budget.