Politics & Government

House suspends education initiatives – again

The votes were lopsided but not unanimous to suspend initiatives 728 and 732 in the state House of Representatives Monday. The two iconic education-funding measures were first approved by voters in 2000 to provide class-size reduction funds and also to provide K-12 public school employees with annual cost-of-living raises.

The vote was to temporarily suspend the voters’ will on both measures, saving more than $1 billion in general fund outlays over the next two years. Lawmakers have suspended the two measures during past financial crises.

This year, the education cuts are part of the $4 billion-plus in cuts that the House and Senate have proposed to all state-funded programs as they try to bridge a $5.3 billion shortfall in 2011-13.

Because both bills were needed to balance the budget, their passage was all but certain, and their passage is likely assured in the Senate, which is where they go next.

House Bill 1131 suspends the class-size measure, I-728. The vote was 71-to-25 with two excused.

Among South Sound lawmakers, those voting in favor were Democratic Reps. Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma, Fred Finn of Thurston County, Tami Green of Lakewood, Kathy Haigh of Shelton, Sam Hunt of Olympia, Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, Troy Kelley of Tacoma, Steve Kirby of Tacoma, Connie Ladenburg of Tacoma, Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, Chris Reykdal of Tumwater, and Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor; and Republican Reps. Gary Alexander of Thurston County, Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup, J.T. Wilcox of Yelm, and Hans Zeiger of Edgewood.

Those voting against it were Republicans Jan Angel of Port Orchard and Richard DeBolt of Chehalis. Democratic Rep. Chris Hurst of Enumclaw and Republican Rep. Jim McCune of Graham were absent and excused. Overall, three Democrats statewide voted against it and 17 Republicans in favor.

House Bill 1132 suspends I-732, the inflation-tied raises for teachers and other K-12 staffers, and the vote was 64-32. The approved version of the bill left out a provision that spelled out how teachers could catch-up on the lost pay raises in future years.

South Sound lawmakers voting in favor of HB 1132 were Democratic Reps. Darneille, Finn, Green, Haigh, Hunt, Jinkins, Kelley, Ladenburg, Miloscia, Reykdal, and Seaquist; and Republican Reps. Alexander, Dammeier and Wilcox. Voting against were Democratic Rep. Kirby and Republican Reps. Angel, DeBolt, and Zeiger. Reps. Hurst and McCune were again excused.

Overall, three Democrats statewide voted against it and 12 Republicans in favor.

Dammeier, the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, voted for both measures although a majority of GOP caucus members voted against them. "There's a lot of reason to vote no for both of those. Some people think we should be funding them. And some people think we should eliminate them," Dammeier said in explanation.

"I would say we fundamentally want to start funding education in accordance with the education reform program, which gets that funding under the constitutional protection," he added.

Majority Democrats would have supported keeping the measures if the state had more money.

Tuesday, May 10, marks the 15th day of the special session with 15 more to go.