Just about everyone was relieved to hear state budget negotiations came to a close early this morning. In general, the headlines have been positive: Basic Health and Disability Lifeline were protected in the budget, and tax breaks for some out-of-state banks and roll-your-own cigarettes have been eliminated.
Some not-so-positive-measures were also part of the budget deal – such as cuts to retirement benefits for future state employees who retire early (including some who do hard and dangerous work), and an unnecessary requirement to write state budgets based on mostly unknowable 4-year economic projections.
But perhaps the best news from the legislative all-nighter is passage of the Jobs Now Act. Lawmakers authorized nearly $1 billion in general obligation bonds for capital projects, translating to 18,000 new construction jobs.
The benefits of the bill extend well beyond construction workers and their families. As the construction sector regains momentum, other sectors will grow and add jobs, too. Workers will spend new and increased earnings in their communities, boosting local business and economic growth across the state.
What’s more, capital projects result in facility and environmental improvements that all Washingtonians can enjoy for decades to come. Learn more about how this measure will positively impact Washington’s economy in Jobs Bonds: A recipe for economic recovery.
A less-publicized measure could finally address the state’s failure to fund adequate K-12 education. House Bill 2824 establishes a task force to develop one or more plans to fully fund basic education statewide. The task force will be comprised of 8 legislators (4 from each side of the aisle), plus 3 people appointed by the Governor.
The plan(s) must be submitted to the Governor by the end of this year – and if a plan does not include new revenue, the task force must provide details about which programs in the existing budget they propose to reduce or eliminate.
That’s a critical step, because right now the state simply does not have adequate funding for a high quality public education. Fixing our broken tax structure with meaningful tax reform will make it possible to reinvest in our public education system and improve public services for everyone – strengthening our communities and our economy for the long-term.
But if we expect the taskforce to propose and the legislature to adopt a funding alternative that will full fund a high quality full pre-k through college education system, the voters of Washington will have to make those wishes loud and clear.