MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Update: Inslee proposes $3 million for mental health

Dec 13, 2016, 3:17 PM | Updated: Dec 14, 2016, 12:25 pm

Inslee, washington education...

(AP)

(AP)

Update

Though most of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal focuses on education funding, his two-year plan also seeks more money for mental health and a tuition freeze for universities and community and technical colleges.

On the second day of his multi-day budget rollout, Inslee called for spending an additional $300 million in the next two-year budget on the state’s mental health system in order to improve capacity and add staffing.

The plan also seeks to move people hospitalized on civil commitments out of the state’s two psychiatric hospitals and into beds at facilities in the community.

The $47 billion budget plan assumes more than $4 billion in new revenue, with a majority of it — about $3.9 billion — dedicated to education-related costs.

Inslee says budget will fund education

Inslee announced Tuesday that his 2017-19 budget will fully fund K-12 Washington education — a task that has plagued the state since its Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to come up with the money.

“It’s time to end the 30 years of under-funding education. It’s time to get the job done,” Inslee said Tuesday, adding that 2017 is that time.

“It’s a great day in the State of Washington … because today we are unveiling a budget that will show we can and will fully and fairly fund the education of our children,” he said.

State superintendent: Lawmakers playing kick-the-can with Washington education

State lawmakers will get the final say on whether it is a “great day,” however. The legislature — with a Republican majority —  will ultimately approve or deny the Democratic governor’s budget in the next session.

The budget, Inslee says, will bring the state in compliance with the famous 2012 McCleary decision. That decision was made by the state’s Supreme Court, which ordered elected officials to fully fund Washington education. In recent decades, communities have been forced to rely on local levies to fill funding gaps left in the wake of state budgets. Some communities can afford the levies, and others cannot. Which creates another gap in the quality of education from school-to-school.

The budget proposes $2.7 billion to close the education funding gap, and then another $1.1 billion to reduce class sizes and support struggling students. The budget proposes to increase starting pay for teachers, in order to recruit educators.

“We want the best and the brightest going into public education, not just Amazon and Microsoft,” Inslee said.

And Inslee boasts that despite the proposes increases, at least 75 percent of Washington households and businesses will see a property tax cut. He also said that the budget achieved its funding goal without increasing the state property tax. The budget aims to reduce school taxes in 119 of the state’s 295 districts and enable school districts. Also, to reduce local property taxes by $250 million each year.

“But we do have tax increases in this proposal,” Inslee said.

Funding Washington education

The billions Inslee proposes to add to Washington education funding will require taxes.

“There is a capital gains tax that would impact a very small percentage of people,” Inslee said, noting that it would affect about 30,000 people out of seven million.

“There is a B&O tax — a 1 percent increase that will affect some people, although about 30,000 people will now get new relief so they won’t have to pay any B&O tax,” he said. “So it depends on the size of your business. And there is a carbon tax that will be paid by polluting industries that are responsible for pollution.”

Inslee noted that the budget does not affect funding for mental health or housing programs.

“(The proposed budget) asks those who have done very well in our community to help out a little bit in our schools, rather than the people in the bottom 90 percent of the income spectrum in the State of Washington,” Inslee said. “That is a capital gains proposal. It does not tax the sale of homes, it does not tax the sale of retirement incomes, and it is limited to a very, very small number of people. That, at least marginally, improves the fairness of our system.”

At this point, the budget is only a proposal. It will have to gain the approval of the state legislature over the next year before the state can truly boast that it is fully funding education and complying with the McCleary decision. The legislature, however, has a Republican majority — a hurdle that the Democratic governor’s budget will have to pass.

Inslee said he hopes that lawmakers will “agree with me” by favoring the capital gains tax, and not “put more burden on working people by increasing sales and property taxes.”

“You will get this: the knowledge that our kids are going to have a great education, and the knowledge that we, to the extent humanly possible, have designed a sustainable way to do this that is fair, rather than more unfair,” Inslee said.

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Update: Inslee proposes $3 million for mental health