2017 Legislative Session

Ending and starting again

105 days later and no conclusion.  Have you ever lit a firework and it fizzled out (a dud)?  Well, that’s how the regular session ended.  No flash, no bang, just a letter two days before the end of session from Governor Inslee calling them back into special session starting on Monday, April 24.

What new taxes will they approve, what is there McCleary solution, and, how do they meet in the middle when the two most important budgets from House Democrats and Senate Republicans are as different as “apples and zucchinis” (as described by House Appropriations chair Representative Timm Ormsby)?  These issues will be debated now by lead negotiators over the next 30 days, the remaining legislators have been sent home.

 

 

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K 12 insurance – little disagreement but harmful to classified employees

Unfortunately for classified employees, there is very little disagreement over how much the state will provide school districts for classified employee insurance benefits.  Sadly, both the House and Senate provide no increase for insurance funding while Governor Inslee gets credit for the high water mark by coming up with an 8.8% increase (enough to cover one year of premium inflation).  Unless the House and Senate come to an agreement to increase this funding, classified employees will only have received a 1.6% increase over the 10 year period from 2010 – 2019.  Sad…

I have testified that unless the State fully funds premium inflation soon, the only classified employees who will be able to afford insurance are our supervisors.

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No dispute on higher education insurance benefits for next two years

With only a small difference, all three budget proposals fully fund the higher education insurance agreement.  That agreement maintains the 85/15 split of the cost of PEBB insurance premiums.  Employers (either state or higher education institution) funds 85% of the cost of insurance premiums, employees pay 15% of the cost of insurance premiums.  I have to point out that employees pay 15% of the premium costs regardless whether they sign up for employee only coverage or full family coverage.  This is an example of a fair and balanced approach that PSE and many legislators are interested in applying to K 12 insurance premiums.

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Governor Inslee approves extension of interpreter deadline

Governor Inslee has signed into law SB 5142, the bill to give deaf and hard of hearing paraeducator interpreters additional time to meet standards.  Dependent upon what stage the paraeducator is at, they will have an additional 12-18 months to meet the standards.  At the latest, a deaf and hard of hearing paraeducator interpreter would have until February 28, 2019, to meet the standards.

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Governor Inslee gets paraeducator bill

Yesterday, the House gave final approval, (94-1 vote – okay Representative Klippert you wanted to be different), to PSE’s paraeducator bill, ESHB 1115.  Governor Inslee will have a couple of weeks to determine if he will support the legislation.  I’m not expecting any surprises but will let you know if there are any concerns.

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K 12 compensation tied to McCleary

When the Supreme Court entered its last order, they made compensation a major issue that the legislature needed to address.  This wasn’t new to anyone since it has been clear for decades that local levies, not the State, have been paying for “competitive salaries”.  What “competitive” means is that the State provides school districts a “base salary” but school districts have to rely upon local levies to add additional compensation to make salaries “competitive”.

This is true for all three of the major classification of employees: teachers, principals, classified employees.  And the amount of money coming from local levies for “competitive” salaries is a very large number: $1.2 billion per year.  The classified employee share of the total amount is $244 million.  Because the Court wants the State to fully fund or have at least a plan to fund this by 2018, legislators (and Governor Inslee) have offered 3 different solutions.  Solutions form House Democrats and Governor Inslee are similar while the Senate is significantly different.

Governor Inslee

While there were significant salary increases for teachers and administrators, there were also significant increases for classified employees.

—- September 1, 2017…raise state funding for classified salaries (inclusive of the 2.4% Initiative 732 salary increase) from the current $33,412 to $39,457 (a 18.1% increase)

—- September 1, 2018…raise state funding for classified salaries (inclusive of the 2.8% Initiative 732 salary increase) from $39,457 to $52,908 (a 34% increase).

—- Professional development would be provided to paraeducators amounting to 20 hours in 2017 and 40 hours in 2018.

House Democrats

While there were significant salary increases for teachers and administrators, there were also significant increases for classified employees.

—- September 1, 2017…raise state funding for classified salaries (inclusive of the 2.3% Initiative 732 salary increase) from the current $33,412 to $40,060.66 (a 19.9% increase)

—- September 1, 2018…raise state funding for classified salaries (inclusive of the 2.7% Initiative 732 salary increase) from $40,060.66 to $46,888.93 (a 17% increase).

—- Professional development would be provided to all state funded FTEs amounting to 1 day 2017 and 2 days in 2018.

Senate Republicans

Along with many other changes to K 12 funding, the Senate only proposed a 2.3% Initiative 732 salary increase effective September 1, 2017.

Future salary increases would be governed by future local negotiations.  The State would provide school districts an annual increase (based upon the US IPD (implicit price deflator – usually 1-1.5% below the Seattle CPI (consumer price index).  This increase is then subject to negotiations to determine who gets how much of the increased funding.  And to make it more complicated, school districts cannot provide salary funding exceeding 80% of their State funding.  Not an attractive environment competing with teachers and others for smaller funding increases.

 

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State and higher education employee contracts

There are 27 contracts that unions have negotiated with their employers (including Governor Inslee).  Those contracts have to be approved (and funded) by the legislature before they can be implemented.  Governor Inslee’s budget funded them.  The House democrat’s budget funded them.  Senate republican’s budget only funded 2 of the contracts.  The remaining 25 contracts were not approved by Senate republicans instead they approved a $500 salary increase per year for each year of the budget.

Why is there a difference?  According to Senate budget chair John Braun, Senate republican’s chose to prioritize state funding so they could fully fund K 12 education.  Fully funding the contracts costs nearly $500 million.  The Senate budget proposal only costs $78 million.

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Budget breakdown continues

The stage is set but the actors are not playing their roles.  House democrats and Senate republicans have approved their separate budgets, now the only thing to do is negotiate the differences.  Normally, with 11 days left before the end of session, Budget negotiators meet and trade issues based upon the relative importance of the issue to their party.  This winnowing process results in a final budget.  That’s not happening this year because the Senate has refused to meet until after the House has approved the tax increases necessary to fund the House’s budget (roughly $3 billion in new taxes).  As of today, House democrats have refused to vote on the tax increases necessary to fund their budget.

So there is the first reason for the breakdown.  And if you think that is a big problem the next one is even bigger: the Budgets they have approved are as different as “apples to zucchinis”.  Normally, budgets are different, but the differences are so big it is difficult to imagine how they are going to cobble together an agreement.  The popular expectation here in Olympia is that the only thing that is going to force them to agreement is the June 30 deadline (after that date, the government doesn’t have any money to operate).

Over the next several blog entries, I am going to break apart the major issues, one issue at a time, that are the heart of the “apples to zucchini” budgets.

 

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Another hurdle passed as paraeducator bill moves on

After a variety of hiccups, the Senate unanimously approved the agreed to paraeducator bill after also approving this amendment.  After a false start yesterday, the Senate got right down to business today by approving the bill as the first bill of the day.  Senators Rivers, Rolfes, and Zeiger spoke to the value of paraeducators in the classroom.  All of them credited the late Senator Andy Hill for his work promoting the value of paraeducators and this bill.

Though he was not recognized on the Senate floor, the key player helping us reach the agreement was our champion in the House for the last four years, Representative Steve Bergquist!

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House higher education capital budget projects

HIGHER EDUCATION

The 2017-19 Capital Budget includes $802 million in total appropriations and alternative financing authority for higher education facilities, including $419 million in state general obligation bonds. Of the total spending authority, $433 million, including $216 million in state general obligation bonds, is provided for the community and technical college system. $369 million, including $203 million in state general obligation bonds, is provided for four-year institutions.

Funding is provided for a variety of major projects, including:

  • $24.2 million for the replacement of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington (UW);
  • $10 million for the academic component of the new Population Health Sciences Research Building at the UW;
  • $38.1 million to construct Phase II of the Global Animal Health Building known as the Allen Center at the Washington State University (WSU);
  • $9.9 million for renovation and addition construction of the Aviation Program facility at Central Washington University;
  • $67 million for construction of the Interdisciplinary Science Center at Eastern Washington University;
  • $8.7 million for the upgrades to Critical Power, Safety, and Security Systems at The Evergreen State College (TESC);
  • $5.6 million for renovating and consolidating the Health and Counseling Center at TESC;
  • $35.1 million for the Professional-Technical Education Center at Big Bend Community College;
  • $33.3 million for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at Clover Park Technical College, of which $28.6 million is funded with alternative financing;
  • $37.8 million for the Science, Engineering, and Technology Building at Edmonds Community College;
  • $23.4 million for the Health and Life Sciences Building at Highline College;
  • $24.9 million to renovate the South Wing of the Main Building at Spokane Community College; and
  • $34 million for the Learning Commons at Whatcom Community College. 

 

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