State budget deal relies on massive education cuts

first_imgBudget deal already faces legal threatLocal lawmakers split on workers’ comp dealProbst education bills receive some fundingOLYMPIA — A tentative agreement to fill Washington state’s $5 billion budget shortfall relies largely on massive cuts to education, including reductions in teacher pay and dramatic increases in university tuition.Negotiators announced the plan Tuesday in a somber news conference, saying they sought to make the painful reductions as responsibly as they could. With new taxes essentially off the table due to an initiative voters approved last year, the $32 billion plan for the next two years includes $4.6 billion in spending cutbacks.“There were sacrifices made in every single part of services provided by state government,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.Education suffered the most, accounting for roughly half of all cuts.Teachers, who have already had salaries trimmed when lawmakers decreased paid training days, face another 1.9 percent decrease while other K-12 employees could get a 3 percent reduction. Those changes will save the state $179 million over the next two years and come even though the pay for legislators will remain steady.Repeating savings from the last budget, the Legislature is looking to suspend voter-approved cost-of-living adjustments for education employees, which would save another $300 million. They’ve also barred any provisions to catch up on delayed adjustments in future years.The biggest budget shift, totaling more than $1 billion, comes from suspending programs designed to keep class sizes low.Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association, said she was disappointed by the spending plan and argued that the state needs to identify a new source of revenue to sustain schools. She had feared such cuts after voters approved I-1053 in November, requiring the Legislature to have a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases.last_img read more