Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday released his 2018 supplemental budget, which adds nearly $1 billion to fully fund basic education in time for the 2018 school year and makes modest new investments for emerging and urgent needs such as tools to combat the opioid crisis, emergency preparedness, protection for endangered orcas and mental health.
“Let’s fund the final step of McCleary this year,” Inslee said. “The Legislature has invested billions of dollars in our schools over the past five years, including in a bipartisan effort to tackle the heaviest and most complicated part of the plan this past session related to local levies and compensation for educators. Our students and their teachers are counting on us to deliver the full funding they need — and we can deliver that full funding now.”
For decades, inadequate state funding has forced school districts to rely heavily on local property taxes to fully fund K-12 education. The state has been under court order since 2010 to fully fund basic education to end the over-reliance on local levies.
The state has made significant progress since 2013, adding more than $5.6 billion in new K-12 spending.
The state Supreme Court ruled recently that, under legislation approved earlier this year, the state would eventually meet its school funding obligations. But the court also said the Legislature fell short because it did not fully fund higher salaries for teachers and other school staff until the 2019–20 school year, a year later than the Legislature’s self-imposed and court-mandated deadline.
As he did a year ago, Inslee is proposing to fully fund the salary increases in the 2018–19 school year.
Besides additional funding for schools, Inslee is proposing modest increases to combat opioid addiction, boost earthquake and tsunami preparedness, and launch an initiative to protect Puget Sound’s struggling Southern Resident orca population.
The governor’s supplemental budget also includes nearly $162 million to cover anticipated shortfalls in the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care to more than 1.8 million Washingtonians. The bulk of this amount is due to savings assumptions in the underlying budget that are not likely to be met and cannot be absorbed in the current budget without having to make significant cuts to services.
The budget also includes about $113 million to cover higher operating costs at the state’s psychiatric hospitals and to make changes to maintain federal funding for Western State Hospital. With that extra funding, 90 hospital staff will be hired to improve the quality of care. In addition, nearly 15 general maintenance staff will be hired to ensure the facility is safe and secure. The budget also dedicates $10 million for 45 new forensic beds at Western State Hospital. These are in addition to the 30 forensic beds that were funded in last year’s budget.
Meanwhile, the state’s costs for fighting wildfires this year totaled nearly $67 million — about $42 million more than was provided in the underlying budget. The governor’s budget would cover that shortfall.
The governor also again urged the Legislature to enact the 2017–19 capital budget so state and local entities can get started on hundreds of projects that have been on hold since lawmakers adjourned in July without passing one. It was the first time in modern history the Legislature adjourned without passing a biennial capital budget.
“Passing the capital budget should be the first order of business when the Legislature convenes in January,” Inslee said. “We need to move these important projects forward and realize the thousands of jobs they will support.”
Among other items, the capital budget includes about $1 billion for more than 100 school construction and repair costs statewide. It also provides about $111 million to expand community-based mental health treatment services and make improvements at the state’s psychiatric hospitals. And it provides more funding to clean up toxic sites, award grants for local water supply and stormwater improvements, and build housing to alleviate homelessness.
Main budget page: https://ofm.wa.gov/budget18
Budget highlights: https://ofm.wa.gov/budget18highlights