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Senate Democrats: State budget proposal puts people first

The following is from the Washington State Senate Democrats:

OLYMPIA (April 1, 2019) — Senate Democrats on Friday introduced a $52.2 billion state operating budget proposal to fund vital state services, including targeted support for the state’s behavioral health system, K-12 special education, higher education, and the environment.

More than 50 percent of the state budget pays for K-12 education, honoring commitments made in 2017 to increase basic education funding. A new investment of $283 million is dedicated to improving behavioral health services over the next two years.

“This is a smart budget that reflects our shared values and fulfills commitments to quality education and a more effective behavioral health system,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Is.), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “We deepen our commitment to quality early learning, give more kids a chance at college, invest in our state’s vital workforce, and address threats to our health and environment. This budget continues our commitment to putting people first.”

The budget represents a $4.5 billion increase in K-12 education spending above the last biennial budget, including a $937 million increase for special education.

Other budget highlights include the funding of Gov. Inslee’s climate initiatives and orca whale protection, investments in housing and homelessness, expansion of college scholarship programs, improving the foster care system, police de-escalation training, expanding access to early learning, and funding the sexual assault kit backlog at the Washington State Patrol.

Click here for Senate Operating Budget details.

Senate Democrats are proposing roughly $518 million in new revenue to pay for many of the new investments. The proposal calls for changes to make the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) more fair and the closure or reduction of three preferential tax rates: non-resident sales tax, prescription drug resellers, and travel agents. The budget also includes a tax increase on property, auto and casualty insurance, from 2 percent to 2.52 percent, to establish a dedicated account to fund wildfire prevention and suppression.

“Where more revenue is needed to address our state’s growing needs, the budget strategy is careful not to increase the burden on middle-class households,” Rolfes said.

“Democrats in the House and Senate have now released budgets based on the values all Washingtonians share. Both proposals focus on creating safe, healthy communities where people have access to quality education, affordable housing, and economic opportunity,” Rolfes said. “I look forward to working with the House to finish our work and pass a final 2019-21 budget before the session ends on April 28.”

A public hearing on the Senate budget proposal in the Senate Ways & Means Committee is scheduled for today (Monday, April 1) at 1:30 p.m.

ALSO see — Senate Democrats’ introduce “Fix Our Tax Code” plan — Washington’s tax structure is broken. Lower and middle-income families pay nearly 18 percent of their total income in taxes, while the very wealthiest Washingtonians pay just 3 percent. The Evergreen State’s tax structure consistently ranks dead last in terms of fairness. It’s with this in mind that Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and others introduced a striking amendment to SB 5961 to help fix Washington’s tax code. “While we know we must do more to fix our upside-down tax structure, this would represent modest but concrete progress,” Billig said. “Our existing tax system disproportionately burdens the middle class and vulnerable households living paycheck to paycheck, which is the majority of households in our state.”

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