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Braun Commentary: Approved State Budget Includes Historic Public Education Reforms

Public education will account for more than half of state spending for the first time since 1983 under our new state budget, which passed the Legislature on June 30.

The $43.7 billion two-year operating budget covers the day-to-day costs of state government from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019.

Students from every community in our state will now have the same opportunity and support as their peers in high-performing schools.

This year we were tasked with solving a 30-year problem facing students, parents, teachers and taxpayers. We solved this problem with reforms that will improve our public education system for future generations. The bipartisan budget includes $22 billion for K-12 education in 2017-19, a 62 percent increase since the 2012 state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. State funding for public education has increased from $13.5 billion in the 2011-13 budget to $22 billion in just a few years. We’ve also made reforms to ensure that increased funding is spent more equitably across the state and leads to better outcomes. In the coming years students in Pe Ell, Castle Rock and White Pass, will have the same support and opportunity as their peers in Seattle and Bellevue. The new budget also makes significant improvements in mental health treatment and for foster youth, two of my priorities for this session. Policy improvements coupled with increased investment will help ensure the state can provide more appropriate and effective care and support. Property tax reform is also on the way for Washington residents as a new school funding system replaces existing rate-based local school property tax levies with a $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value maximum for all school districts. Local levy collections will also be capped at $2,500 per student, with the state guaranteeing $1,500 for districts where funding falls short. This is coupled with an increase in the existing statewide public school property tax to a rate of $2.70, which ultimately results in lower property taxes for roughly 70 percent of state residents. This agreement reduces the need for local levies starting in 2019 and brings fairness to our property tax system. The new policy stands in stark contrast to calls from the governor and House of Representatives to increase taxes by a minimum of $8 billion. The budget was approved by a 70-23 margin in the House of Representatives and 39-10 in the Senate.

In the coming weeks I’ll provide analysis and information on exactly what the school funding reforms will mean for you and your family (homeowners in the 20th District will mostly see property tax reductions). I’ll also go into further depth on important investments and reforms to improve outcomes for state residents. Governor Rejects Rural Manufacturing Job Opportunities I was incredibly disappointed that Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed part of our budget agreement that supports middle-class families by improving job opportunities in the manufacturing sector throughout the state. The new state budget included a uniform statewide business and occupation tax rate for manufacturing businesses, the only sector that has seen employment decline since 2000. While many areas of our economy have been successful in recent years, Washington has lost more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. Not only are these jobs critical to rural and suburban economies, but they provide high wages for working families. Failure to invest in the success of our state’s middle-class families rejects a statewide economy that works for everyone. The current business and occupation tax rate for manufacturing businesses is 0.484 of a percent, which the Legislature voted to reduce to .2904 of a percent, the rate currently provided to Boeing and other aerospace companies. The change was part of the overall compromise that included closure of some existing tax incentives and added other incentives aimed at protecting or creating new jobs. It’s unbelievable that the governor would go back on a complex budget agreement that received strong bipartisan support. The governor’s staff was involved in every step of the negotiation and at no point prior to the bill’s passage did they suggest the governor would veto part of the agreement. Negotiating a budget is already an enormously difficult process that requires working in good faith. Vetoing part of the agreement will further reduce trust between the legislative and executive branches and will undermine our ability to govern effectively. The legislation was approved by a margin of 33-16 in the Senate and 83-10 in the House of Representatives, more than the supermajority needed to override the governor’s veto. 7/31/2017 Braun Commentary: Approved State Budget Includes Historic Public Education Reforms | Opinion |… 2/2 ••• Sen. John Braun represents the 20th District and is the chief budget writer for Republicans in the Senate. He's also the owner of Braun Northwest in Chehalis.

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