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In Our View/State's operating budget


Slouching toward Olympia

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In the fierce immediacy of not-quite-now, Olympia lawmakers magoozled an operating budget. (Emergency stashes of Tums and Xanax may now be properly chucked.)
Many legislators, the Snohomish County delegation in particular, worked hard. The brinksmanship and near-shutdown of state government, however, means they'll be met by eye-rollers at home. Such is the price of public life -- you're judged by your team, not your RBI.
K-12 funding was hiked by $1.6 billion for the biennium, an 11.4 percent increase that meets the test of the Supreme Court's McCleary decision. The budget includes additional funding for full-day kindergarten, underwrites pupil transportation, and boosts support for under-achieving students. There's also a 57 percent increase for early learning, in particular the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP.) Higher ed managed to do OK (a 12.4 percent backfill increase) notwithstanding WSU's decision to postpone enrollment at Everett in electrical engineering and communications because of Olympia's heel-dragging.
"For the first time in over two decades, state reinvestment in this budget agreement will allow the UW to hold resident undergraduate tuition rates at their current levels without compromising the extraordinary quality of students educations," UW President Michael Young said.
Medicaid expansion spells a $351 million savings for the general fund (good) while suspending Initiative 732, cost-of-living adjustments for teachers, means $340 million in savings (dumb, if Washington aims to attract and reward the best.)
The problem with horse trading is jettisoning the vision thing. Senate budget notes the need for two new prison units this biennium (one will be delayed at a cost savings of $7.7 million) and building yet another state prison by 2022. Support for tamping down adult and juvenile recidivism is a wiser, long-term priority.
During the regular and two (!) special sessions, bipartisanship was trumpeted by insiders and even editorial scribes. In practice, ideology and partisanship, especially in the Senate, supplanted pragmatism. (What became of the historic business-Republican alliance for transportation? Wither aerospace?) The Senate majority coalition's learning curve gobbled up valuable time.
"The budget we passed today looks very much like the compromise budget proposed and passed by the House a month ago," Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, said on Friday.
Bipartisanship resonates with voters, not with ideologues. A description by any other name wouldn't smell as sweet.

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