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March 14, 2013 at 3:28 PM

House Republicans hope to put $556 million more into education

OLYMPIA — State House Republicans unveiled an education budget proposal Thursday that would increase K-12 spending by $556 million without raising taxes over the next two years.

The budget would dedicate $817 million to respond to a state Supreme Court order to increase basic education funding, including by expanding full-day kindergarten, reducing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and increasing class time. But it would simultaneously remove $347 million, mostly by continuing the suspension of Initiative 732,  a 2000 measure that mandates annual cost-of-living raises for teachers.

The budget proposal also calls for an additional $86 million for policy changes.

To get the extra money into education — and address a now roughly $1.3 billion budget shortfall — House Republicans would accept Medicaid expansion paid for by the federal government, continue the suspension of family leave for state employees and make other cuts to the Department of Health and Social Services.

The budget also would find about $100 million in government “efficiencies” through a 2 percent cut to state agencies, would make about $200 million in budget transfers and would net about $80 million by eliminating a tax break for telecommunications companies.

House GOP budget writer Gary Alexander called it a “balanced approach.”

“I’m convinced that when we finish up in 105 days, we can balance this budget with reforms, resizing and reduction without new tax increases,” Alexander, R-Olympia, said at a news conference.

The budget has little chance of becoming law, as Republicans are at a 43-to-55 minority in the House. But it offers a window into the thinking of the GOP, which runs the state Senate.

Senate Republicans have been reluctant to say how much more money they want to dedicate to education, so far only offering a window of between $500 million and $1.5 billion.

Many Democrats, especially in the House, believe the court order mandates additional spending as high as $1.7 billion.

In a statement, House Democratic budget-writer Ross Hunter criticized Alexander’s proposal, in part by noting the proposal would barely set anything aside for reserves.

“My initial reaction is that this proposal is more like a press release than a budget,” said Hunter, D-Medina. “Budgets require you to make decisions about balancing competing demands – this document does not do that.”

0 Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: budget, education, Gary Alexander

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