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October 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM
During the federal government shutdown, the National Institutes of Health plans to turn away roughly 200 patients each week from its Washington, D.C.-based clinical research center, including children with cancer, according to The Washington Post. Patients enroll in NIH clinical trials after conventional medical treatments have failed. But with nearly three-quarters of the NIH staff being furloughed, taking on new patients is not an option — even if that means some of the patients will get worse, perhaps die.
This is not the shutdown’s only effect on the lives of struggling children here in Washington and around the nation. If it only lasts a few days, Education Week notes there will likely be little impact on schools and districts. But if the shutdown and furloughs continue in the long-term, it could cause the kinds of problems outlined in this report.
The roughly $22 billion in federal funds sent to states and school districts to cover Title 1 efforts for low-income kids, special education and other programs will still go out the door. However:
“A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department to support their services,” a department memo warned.
June 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Gov. Jay Inslee was on to something Tuesday when he said lawmakers on different sides of the political aisle would have to compromise on the state’s final operating budget by engaging in some give and take. Actually, it seems to me Democratic and Republican legislators have done a considerable amount of both.
Despite some reported differences (it’s hard to tell exactly how far apart they are since lawmakers have made a point of not negotiating the budget with the press), Republicans and Democrats have each made some public concessions that should propel them to the finish line by the special session’s June 11 deadline. By focusing on what they can pass in a bipartisan fashion, perhaps we stand a better chance of averting the worst-case scenario: a government shutdown.
House Democrats unveiled a revised budget proposal Wednesday afternoon with some considerable concessions aimed at pleasing the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC). This included nixing extensions on a business and beer tax. In turn, the MCC deserves some kudos for approving several Democratic wishes: supporting state employee labor contracts, funding Planned Parenthood, and expanding Medicaid as required by federal health care reform.
In the other chamber, the coalition made up of 23 Republicans and two Democrats say they want revenue measures for education to be tied to reforms. Well, it’s worth noting both chambers have already passed three significant bills intended to provide spending controls throughout the next biennium. SB 5329, signed by Inslee last month, gives the state the authority to step in and demand improvements in persistently low-performing schools. Districts that fail to meet agreed-upon goals would have their funding withheld. The governor has also approved two other measures that are key to improving education outcomes, HB 1472 and HB 1642.
Other issues are still up in the air, but compromise is within reach:
— House Democrats have introduced HB 2034, a package that would repeal several exemptions and dedicate an additional $255 million to education. We’re only talking about seven or so exemptions out of 640 that are currently on the books. As the editorial board suggested in this March 30 editorial, all exemptions should be reviewed and it makes sense for a few of these preferential tax rates to end.
— The MCC wants workers’ compensation reform. Our editorial board agrees this is important for keeping and creating jobs in the state. To get it done, they may have to settle for less elsewhere. For example, lawmakers could hold off on the worthy but controversial push for a SB 5242, a “mutual consent” measure which would end the practice of forced teacher placement in schools.
Overall, The Seattle Times editorial board has encouraged lawmakers to focus on the bigger picture. Pass a budget. Get out of Olympia on time. Consider what’s in the best interest of the children who will make up Washington’s future work force. This means the Legislature should take a good look at its current budget breakdown and make full funding of education a top priority — 45 percent of general funds should be dedicated to K-12 public schools; 9 percent for higher education; and additional investments in early learning.
Lawmakers must meet in the middle. Accept that some things — including certain treasured reforms and spending priorities— may have to be saved for another day.
Lynne Varner and Jonathan Martin contributed to this post.
March 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Now that Washington legislators know how much money they have to spend, the real work of setting the state budget begins.
As The Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber reports in this news story, lawmakers have different philosophical views on the issue of closing an estimated $1.3 billion shortfall and fulfilling a court-ordered mandate to better fund K-12 education. Generally speaking, Democrats want more revenue while Republicans say the state should find a way to live within its means without raising or extending taxes.
You know what? I say it’s time for a civic gut check. Here’s two things you can do to think about this debate:
1. Check out this nifty Seattle Times interactive and tell us how YOU would balance the state budget and pay for schools.
2. Share your opinion by participating in our poll.
Here‘s a link to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council‘s official revenue report. Watch the 45-minute video below. The first half features comments from state economist Steve Lerch. The second half is a spirited Q&A session with the media.