If only the Legislature could always work this effectively

Apr 10, 2017, 5:03 AM

The state Legislature has struggled for years to come up with a solution to fully fund basic education.

RELATED: Senate passes $43 billion state budget proposal

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers were failing to do so in its 2012 McCleary decision, the Legislature has been in what seems like an never-ending battle over how to add billions to the education system, which advocates argue employs underpaid staff who teach in overcrowded classrooms.

Lawmakers are trying to make headway, but getting bi-partisan support when dealing with the state’s operating budget is tough going.

If only things could operate as smoothly as Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Sequim) makes the House Capital Budget Committee sound like it runs.

The House proposed a $4.15 billion construction budget this week and of that, more than $1 billion would be invested into schools “in every corner” of the state.

Tharinger says it’s getting a lot of support on both sides of the aisle.

Why? Because the efforts being put forth to complete a capital budget gets bi-partisan support from the beginning.

“It’s been a tried and true formula,” Tharinger said.

Of course, the efforts to pass a capital budget are different than an operating budget. The capital budget is dictated by the number of bonds that can be taken to the market and the money that’s “sort of revolving within the capital budget.”

“So we have a set number and then we just figure out how we want to spend it to make the capital needs of the state,” he said.

RELATED: House passes two-year $44.9 billion state budget

Tharinger says the budget discussion starts with the governor’s proposed budget and then items are added and subtracted with a bi-partisan look.

The key to bi-partisanship, he says, is to make sure it’s outside forces setting the maximum budget line. And because you already know you’ll need votes from both political sides, just begin working with them from the beginning.

Tharinger admits that coming up with a $4.15 billion construction budget is much easier than a $40-billion-plus budget plan. And at the end of the day, everyone gets to cut a ribbon.

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If only the Legislature could always work this effectively