Sunday, March 18, 2012

Still no state budget . . .

After one week in special session the legislators have been unable to agree on a compromise state budget.  They are closer, but have one major hurdle proving difficult to overcome.  The Republicans want to skip a pension payment by a year and the Democrats want to delay a $330 million payment to school districts by one day.  The one positive development for schools is that the parties in both the Senate and House appear to have agreed on no cuts to K-12.

Whether they can find a resolution soon is debatable as tempers flare with a new Senate Republican budget unveiled on Thursday.  In this Seattle Times article we learn that the Governor is very upset and has threatened vetoes of already passed budgets.

Her anger was stoked by a Senate Republican budget plan unveiled Thursday that she says was done without her knowledge, even after several days of meetings between Gregoire and Democratic and Republican leadership.

"You've got to have trust in the room," Gregoire said Thursday. "This does not advance trust in the room."

Negotiations between the Governor's office and legislators from both houses is scheduled to resume tomorrow.  I am hopeful that these negotiations will not result in surprises or major changes to what we have been lead to believe will be a favorable budget for K-12.  I can't, however, forget how the previous behind closed door negotiations impacted our teacher evaluation plans and agree that there are still major unresolved issues captured in the article that could resurface when the doors close.

Republicans are also pushing several structural changes to state government, including a requirement that budgets be balanced over a four-year period and a consolidation of health-insurance plans for education employees. The GOP also wants passage of a charter-schools bill that Democrats largely oppose.

I'd like the doors to be ajar or open for us to influence as these conversations continue.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Even though there's still too much partisan politicking in Olympia, there seems to be a growing consensus building around supporting education. This is definitely good news. Let's hope the ongoing losses to the education budget have come to an end for the foreseeable future. So if the losses have stopped, how do we move forward towards increasing support for our students?

The idea that we can fully fund the revised definition of basic education seems unlikely to me anytime soon. In fact, I wonder when we'll be able to recoup the losses to our budget we've suffered just from the last few years? It doesn't seem soon. Kiplinger paints a grim picture of the economy for 2012 and beyond: (Last updated: February 29, 2012) "The U.S. economy will grow 2%-2.3% in 2012, faster than the 1.7% expansion in 2011 but short of the pace needed to significantly lower the unemployment rate.

Consumers are finally loosening the purse strings after four years of saving more to restore wealth lost in the housing crash and the 2008 stock market drop. Even those with sizable debt are now willing to dip into savings to buy essentials, including big-ticket items such as cars when their clunkers reach the end of the road. But higher energy prices, due mostly to heightened tensions with Iran, will keep consumer spending in check; it will end 2012 only slightly higher than in 2011.

Job creation is picking up, and businesses are investing in new equipment to expand production after several years of slowly increasing production to work off spare capacity. Fears of a severe financial crisis in Europe are lower. U.S. exports to Europe will get trimmed but not slashed as the recession there continues to shape up as mild. Finally, housing will be a small plus to the economy after subtracting from growth the past few years.

Unfortunately, growth isn't accelerating as it normally does in a recovery. The economy grew at an annual rate of 3% in the last quarter of 2011, but the pace will slow again early in 2012 and pick up only slightly by the end of the year. A sustained recovery still is not under way, more than two years after the end of the Great Recession.

And, of course, the economy remains vulnerable to possible shocks -- war, terrorism or a natural disaster. An Israeli attack on Iran, motivated by the belief that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, would cause a spike in energy prices and cut U.S. growth in 2012 as low as 1%. That would leave the U.S. perilously close to a recession if something else happened to retard growth." Read more:

It may take years to get our state's coffers up to pre-recession levels, and salaries may lag for many more years. Hopefully Washingtonians will reinvest in education, and 60%+ of our residents will support a bond to ease overcrowding, even though "a sustained recovery still is not under way". One step at a time, I guess.