Approving the state’s two-year operating budget is always the toughest challenge for the Legislature. This year is no different.
The challenge this session is especially difficult given the mandate to fully fund education.
House Democrats and Senate Republicans have put forward budget and tax proposals that are miles apart.
House Democrats passed a budget that puts families first.
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It fully funds K-12 schools, expands early learning slots, freezes college tuition, improves our mental health care system, protects health care funding, provides housing resources, and fully honors the state employee contracts.
We are also beginning to fix our upside-down tax code. We provide real tax relief to homeowners and close tax loopholes while asking wealthier Washington residents to pay their fair share.
Our budget stands in stark contrast with the Senate Republican budget, which makes massive cuts to local education enhancements, raises college tuition, cuts public safety funding, and rejects the state employee contracts.
And the Senate budget makes an already regressive tax system worse by adding $5.5 billion in new statewide property taxes. This is the wrong direction for Washington state.
Normally this late in the session, both sides would be getting close to a budget compromise after weeks of negotiations.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen twice before, Senate Republicans are once again refusing to come to the table to talk.
So we wait, now likely heading into a second special session, pushing additional costs onto taxpayers that could have easily been avoided. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Sadly, we’ve seen this before from our GOP colleagues, who have twice in the last four years taken the state to the brink of a government shutdown. If they continue their refusal to negotiate, the state will have no choice but to again prepare for a government shutdown.
There are numerous examples of Democrats and Republicans working together to solve problems facing Washington state.
A bipartisan transportation agreement was reached last week.
And this session, I was pleased to be part of the capital budget writing process where bipartisan cooperation is the rule, not the exception.
We are investing a record $1 billion in school construction, and $600 million to protect our natural resources, which leverages another $600 million in outside funds.
Another $85 million is committed to keep Washington on a path toward a clean energy future and $105 million to invest in affordable housing across the state.
House capital budget writers also secured over $200 million in funds for the Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA), a loan program that brings good family-wage jobs to all parts of the state to ensure our water is clean, our sewers are sanitary, our solid waste and recycling programs are sustainable, and our roads are safe.
The House capital budget, approved by a vote of 95-2, is an excellent example of bipartisan cooperation. This cooperation can only happen when both sides come to the table and talk.
There is no reason why the operating budget cannot follow a similar path. It just takes a willingness on the part of the Republicans to meet us halfway. That’s how compromise works, and that’s how problems are solved.
Both sides will be forced to compromise in this divided government. Neither side will get everything they want. But we will never reach a final deal if one side continues to stay on the sidelines.
House and Senate Democrats are ready to get to work.
Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) is serving her first term representing the 22nd Legislative District in the Washington State House of Representatives.