Senate Dems' budget plan avoids deeper cuts to education
Senate Democrats will propose a budget that spares K-12 schools and higher education from further cuts.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats will propose a budget Tuesday that spares K-12 and higher education from additional cuts, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ed Murray said Monday.
The budget also won't suggest asking voters to approve a sales-tax increase. Murray said such a tax proposal is "highly unlikely" this session.
Those were the only details Murray would divulge. He would not discuss cuts, or whether his budget would delay certain K-12 payments, which House Democrats included in their budget proposal last week.
Senate Democrats will roll out their budget Tuesday morning. The Senate, House and Governor's Office then must negotiate a final compromise budget.
House Democrats have proposed delaying a June 2013 K-12 payment until July 2013, shifting the spending into the next two-year budget cycle. They also would delay levy-equalization payments — money that supports "property-poor" districts — in a similar fashion.
Combined, the delayed payments would push just over $400 million in spending into the next budget.
In addition, the House budget would cut around $8 million from K-12 schools and $51 million from higher education. The state Need Grant would shrink by about $10 million.
"Our position is that now is the time to stop cutting, and that for K-12 and higher education we're going to stop," Murray said.
Sen. Joe Zarelli, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he doesn't expect GOP support for the Democrats' proposal, although he hasn't seen their budget yet.
Any delayed payments to schools would be a "non-starter" for Republicans, Zarelli said.
The job of balancing the state budget was made easier this month with the unexpected news that a combination of reduced demand for state services and a slight uptick in tax collections had reduced a $1.5 billion shortfall closer to $1 billion, depending on how much money is left in reserves.
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or email@example.com