Gov. Jay Inslee, saying he had changed his mind about spending more for education this year, proposed an additional $200 million for public schools, some of which would go toward cost-of-living pay increases for teachers.
Inslee in his proposed budget released in December had indicated the state would need to wait until 2015 before significantly increasing funding for education.
“But I’ve had to rethink that approach. Or, to be candid, the Supreme Court has forced us all to look anew at funding our education system this year,” the governor said in an advance copy of the speech given to reporters.
Inslee noted the state Supreme Court, in an order last week, said the state was not moving fast enough when it comes to adequately funding public schools. The justices set an April 30 deadline for the Legislature to come up with a complete, year-by-year plan to meet the court’s requirements.
“The court wrote that it wants to see ‘immediate, concrete action … not simply promises,’ ” Inslee said in the speech. “I agree … In the coming days I will propose a plan to make an investment of about $200 million in our schools this session. Most of that will go directly to your local school districts. It will also fund a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment for our educators this session.”
Inslee said he would look at closing tax breaks to pay for the increase in funding, but did not go into details. The increase proposed by Inslee is a relatively small amount of money compared to the billions of dollars state lawmakers say is needed to meet the Supreme Court mandate.
The governor said the Legislature should not downplay the significance of the court order.
“The court wrote last week that it doesn’t want to be forced to give specific funding directives or hold the Legislature in contempt. The court was clear when it said that ‘this case remains fully subject to judicial enforcement.’ We must not let that happen,” he said.
In addition to money for education, Inslee called for increasing the state’s $9.32 an hour minimum wage.
“There are tens of thousands of jobs that people depend on that don’t provide a living wage in our state,” he said.
Inslee said he did not have an exact number in mind, but “I believe that an increase in the range of $1.50 to $2.50 an hour is a step toward closing the widening economic gap.”
That’s the first time the governor has given a range for an increase.