At the outset of the 2014 Session, our state legislators faced a difficult situation at best. The 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington decision ruled that the State had not been meeting its constitutional obligation to education and mandated an increase in education standards by 2018. The only way to achieve this goal was by increasing funding for education-related operating costs to a level of education spending Washington State has never seen . At the same time, state tax revenue had not risen to pre-recession levels.
The State of Washington operates on a two-year budget cycle beginning July 1 of each odd-numbered year. The budgeting process begins with the Governor’s proposed budget in December and runs through the regular session in the spring of odd-numbered years. At any point, the legislature can make modifications to this budget. It has become tradition for each even-numbered year, like this one, for the legislature to pass a supplemental budget.
As a result of this looming cost and lack of income, any push to increase state funding or decrease tax revenue was a “heavy lift.” This included items on GSI’s agenda such as transportation projects, discretionary program funding and business tax exemptions and incentives. At the end of the session, the legislature adopted a supplemental budget that did not increase or decrease taxes, marginally increased education spending and left most issues for next year’s session.
Even in this strained environment, Greater Spokane Incorporated did achieve several incremental victories alongside our partners. The cost of appealing a Labor and Industries decision will decrease, business taxes were not raised, and many of our road projects such as the North Spokane Corridor were continuously incorporated into the transportation package proposals presented.
Even though the 2014 Legislative Session concluded less than a month ago, we are already preparing for 2015. Hopefully the momentum toward a transportation package and our other goals will continue to move forward into next year.