Sunday, November 25, 2012

State fiscal cliff . . .

There were two interesting education pieces in the last two issues of the Seattle Times on topics I have posted on before.  In this Saturday piece, Donna Gordon Blankenship talks about the $1 billion that legislators must come up with in this biennium to meet the State Supreme Court's order in the McCleary case to pay for basic education reform by 2018.  This is a big issue that they face considering budget projections in the same biennium project a shortfall of $900.  How will  they meet this goal under these very difficult conditions?

A committee of lawmakers has been meeting since summer to discuss their options for responding to the ruling. The Joint Task Force on Education Funding basically has two choices: cut state spending or raise taxes or fees.

The long list of possible cuts include some options that are controversial. Those include cuts to the state higher education system, supervision of all parolees or preschool or health insurance for poor children.

"Most of this stuff is not going to happen. It just doesn't make sense," says Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina and the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Can they meet the court's requirement without raising taxes?  Will Governor-elect Inslee back off of his election promise to not raise taxes?  Another twist to this huge issue is found in today's editorial questioning the capacity of the House and Senate education chairs capacity to provide leadership for education reform given their performance in the last session.

The education committees must function without the drag of recalcitrant leaders.
McAuliffe and Tomiko Santos have been passed up by the circumstances of the McCleary decision and voters’ embrace of charter schools — and the will of their colleagues who have been successful in working around them. 
Expect more of that if legislative leaders keep them in their seats.

There is no time to waste.

Though not as ominous as the national fiscal cliff, our state is also facing a fiscal cliff.  The court has made their decision and the focus now shifts to Olympia in January.  I believe that we will see proposals calling for major cuts to other state services, some so deep that there will be major push back and aggressive lobbying. It will take more than leadership to find solutions to these major budget issues.  It will take collaboration and adaptive solutions, things that have not been the norm in state politics.  The tentative nature of the democrat's control of the senate may make these adaptive solutions possible or it may make it more difficult.  This cliff will have a greater influence on public education in our state than the one capturing headlines at the national level.

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