When the senate Democrats released their budget last week (the one that was fated to get deep sixed by the Republicans on Friday night), Democratic ways and means chair Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle) boasted that the Democratic plan made no cuts to education.
When the Republicans unveiled their budget late Friday—the one that passed dramatically late Friday night after the Republicans gained control of the senate floor by wooing three conservative Democrats to their side—the ranking Republican on ways and means, Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield) bragged:"K-12 education alone would get $251 million more in this budget than what Senate Democrats proposed."
The facts are with the Democrats on this one: According to the non-partisan ways and means committee staff analysis, Murray's budget actually adds $38.6 million to K-12 education while Zarelli's budget cuts $43.8 million, meaning the GOP lags $82.5 million behind the Democrats. (Both budgets, by the way, fund the controversial teacher evaluation proposal.)
When it comes to higher education, the Murray budget adds $65,000 while the Zarelli budget cuts $30 million. The difference: A $30.4 million advantage in the Democratic budget.
The GOP claim comes from the fact that the Murray budget delays (by 24 hours) a $330 million payment to local schools districts, pushing the payment into the next biennium. The GOP have condemned the budget move as a gimmick, but the the Democrats point out that no teacher or student would see a reduction in funding.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, has made education funding the centerpiece of his campaign, lamenting the fact that K-12 funding has dropped from 50 percent to 41 percent of the state budget and that higher ed funding has dropped from 16 percent to eight percent over the last several decades. McKenna wants to restore funding to those higher levels, which would cost $2.1 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, over the next biennium.
His party's proposal raises questions for McKenna. (In fact, sources tell PubliCola that McKenna's office actually helped the Republicans round up the votes for their budget power play on Friday night).
PubliCola asked McKenna's office about both issues.
Here's the email exchange:
1. The [Republican] budget cuts more from education than the [Sen. Ed] Murray proposal did...
Does AG McKenna have a comment on that?
2. Word is McKenna staff had a role in shoring up the votes on Friday night. Any truth to that?
McKenna's spokesman in the Attorney General's office Dan Sytman:
Legislators deserve the credit for reaching across the aisle, finding areas of consensus and passing a budget.
Of course, the campaign would be the appropriate source for the education question.
I have a message into the McKenna campaign about education funding.
McKenna's opponent, US Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA, 1), denounced the senate budget proposal late this afternoon. Inslee said, "The budget proposal put forth by Senate Republicans – an 11th hour proposal put to a vote without any public input – defies common sense. If Republicans want to put us in a race against the likes of Louisiana and Wisconsin, this budget is the way to do it. We cannot afford the $74 million they want to cut from schools and colleges and the damage it would do to our ability to grow our economy."
And directly seizing the opportunity on McKenna's education focus, Inslee concluded: "I hope my opponent, Rob McKenna, who has claimed he wants to increase education funding, will join me in urging legislators to re-prioritize funding for our schools."