Inslee visits local educators to talk funding, warns lawmakers of looming budget deadline

Inslee visited Sharpstein Elementary in Walla Walla on Thursday to have a roundtable discussion with educators about funding basic education.

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Governor Jay Inslee is traveling across the state to talk to educators about what they need to fund their schools.

On Thursday, he visited Sharpstein Elementary in Walla Walla to listen to what teachers in Eastern Washington had to say.

Action News met with the governor to find out what legislators will need to do to meet the McCleary decision mandated by the state Supreme Court to fund basic education.

Educators were grateful for the opportunity to speak directly to the governor about their needs and struggles within the Walla Walla Public School system, as well as share their ideas to fund basic education overall.

Legislators are now in the second special session, and the clock is ticking.

"Legislators are going to have to agree on a bipartisan plan. Our children deserve it. The constitution demands it," Inslee said.

Gov. Inslee is putting the pressure on legislators to resolve the longtime battle of education funding. Lawmakers have till the end of the month to come up with a budget or else they face a partial government shut down on 1 July.

"Legislators need to step up to the plate and get this job done--they've had plenty of time to do it," Inslee said.

As time dwindles, senate republicans are worried about the looming deadline.

"We're about 10 days out, and the likelihood of that is growing," Sen. Mark Schoesler of the 9th Legislative District said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Local educators in Walla Walla said their biggest concern is no budget and not knowing what resources they may or may not have for the upcoming school year.

"It's very hard to program for next year, to make sure we provide continuity, consistency and the best supports for our kids in the Walla Walla Public Schools," WWPS Superintendent Wade Smith said.

The state is in contempt of court for not satisfying the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling to fully fund basic education.

Senate republicans said it’s tough to negotiate a deal that both parties can agree on, stating they want to avoid another McCleary mess in the future.

“I’ve said it before--measure twice, and cut once—and really that's what we're doing." Sen. Ann Rivers said in a press conference Tuesday.

Inslee said it’s time for both parties to make the hard, bipartisan consensus to fund basic education, adding that both sides have recognized the need for new revenue.

"Both parties have recognized it is going to take some additional tax revenue of some sort, republicans have recognized that,” he said.

Inslee believes the senate’s proposal significantly under funds schools, but he said both parties must compromise on new taxes and find a fair way to implement them across the state.

He has already taken a capital gains tax off the table, and instead there are proposals which would have Washington state collect sales tax from purchases made through the internet, a tax on pollution, as well as a state property tax-adjustment.

However, the governor said he thinks the republicans have proposed too high of a property tax increase, that’s why they’re looking at new, alternative sources of revenue.

"I think [the property tax increase] would put too much of a burden on senior citizens who live on fixed incomes, and on veterans who don't have a lot of extra change," Inslee said.

If legislators don't address the McCleary decision to fund basic education, Inslee said the state Supreme Court could intervene yet again.

Inslee warned that in other states in this situation, courts have issued millions of dollars’ worth of fines and have even punished legislators by shutting schools down.

"It's unnecessary we should not have to have that sledgehammer over legislators,” he said. “They need to wake up, do their job, and pass a budget that will finance schools."

Inslee stressed that children are the future and the legacy we will leave behind.

He said legislators must get to work to ensure children and teachers have the resources they need in the classroom and beyond.

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