House and Senate offer “consensus” budgets
Good news for K-12 funding – at this point in the process
The House and Senate introduced identical 2012 supplemental operating budget proposals as a step towards closing $1.4 billion in a projected budget shortfall that brought legislators back to Olympia Nov. 28.
The “early action” proposal includes $479.7 million in proposed cuts, fund transfers, an infusion of $50 million in new revenue from unclaimed property, and maintenance changes since the 2011-13 operating budget was adopted last May.
Both House and Senate budget committees have scheduled public hearings today on their substitute bills (House, Senate), with the House scheduling floor action tomorrow to vote on the early action budget. The Senate is expected to follow suit and, with minor adjustments, is expected to adopt this first cut at the supplemental budget by the end of the week.
The actual bills are PSHB 2058 in the House and PSSB 5883 in the Senate. K-12 education funding is found in Part V of the budget bills.
No cuts to LEA, days or other major K-12 policy programs
Neither proposal would make controversial policy changes to the number of school days, increased class sizes, or Local Effort Assistance (LEA).
The $11 million reduction to LEA shown in the budget bill is a maintenance-level adjustment, based on projected property values going down. According to House budget staff, the adjustment reflects the most recent projections from the state Department of Revenue. When assessed values decrease, so does LEA. The reduction was also included in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s supplemental budget proposal released last month.
Lawmakers will grapple with these thorny issues and more when they return Jan. 9 for the 60-day regular session.
June count added, bus depreciations shifted
Both the House and Senate proposals would add a June count (or last school day in May) to counts already conducted September through May. The budget bills included a provision that could have been construed as moving towards a suggestion made by Gov. Chris Gregoire to change the number of unexcused absences from 20 days to five days. According to Senate budget staff, that language will be removed as a technical fix during committee action this week.
The budget proposals also adopt the Governor’s proposal to shift bus depreciation payments from October to August, which would move the payment into the next fiscal year or biennium, for a one-time savings to the state of nearly $49 million.
WSSDA will share more information as it becomes available.