Rossi: Senate budget puts education, protecting the vulnerable first

Deputy budget-writer calls Senate proposal proof you can be ‘both fiscally responsible and have a social conscience”

Sen. Dino Rossi, a vice chair of the Senate’s budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, said the 2017-19 operating budget proposed today by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus would prioritize education and protect the most vulnerable without calling for new taxes.

“We live within our means and the means have dramatically increased,” said Rossi, R-Sammamish “This is a budget that really protects the most vulnerable in our society, and puts real emphasis on our K-12 system. It’s the first time since Governor John Spellman’s administration in 1983 that the general-fund budget is going to be over 50 percent about K-12 alone. It shows our commitment to basic education. We are changing the focus from an adult-centric model to one focused on students.”

The Senate’s $43 billion proposal encompasses the K-12 education plan adopted by the Senate in February, which would dramatically increase per-student funding while equalizing property-tax rates statewide. It expands on the college-tuition reduction enacted two years ago by boosting enrollment at public colleges and universities by 1,800 students, with 70 percent of those slots in science, technology, engineering and math. The budget also makes major investments in programs for mental-health treatment, senior citizens, foster children and people with developmental disabilities.

Rossi applauded the Senate’s commitment to taking care of the most vulnerable.

“We have to make sure we take care of our vulnerable populations, those who are most in need of our help. We didn’t lose sight of that,” said Rossi. “This budget proves you can be fiscally responsible and still have a social conscience. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.”

The Senate budget proposal includes:

  • Enhancing senior programs, including expansion of the meals-on-wheels program, increased vendor rates, and a raise in the personal-needs allowance for elderly Medicaid recipients under state care.
  • Improving treatment for the mentally ill, including a $250 million investment over four years to increase capacity at treatment facilities, expand community-housing opportunities, and develop financial incentives for effective and appropriate care.
  • Overhauling the foster-care system to improve outcomes for children and stem the loss of foster homes.
  • Expanding options for people with developmental disabilities, including a new program providing Medicaid support for family caregivers.

Rossi said the Senate majority is able to do so much without raising taxes by prioritizing the additional revenue that is coming into the state thanks to economic growth – growth he warns is in danger if Democrats in Olympia get their way.

“The general public is sending nearly 3 billion dollars more in this budget cycle than we had in the previous budget cycle. So we don’t have less money; we have more,” explained Rossi. “But Democrats still want to raise people’s taxes, by creating a capital-gains income tax or the very regressive carbon tax on fuel and heating, or on top of that a 67 percent increase in the business-and-occupation tax, which would crater small businesses. Despite nearly 3 billion dollars more, they still want to do this; it’s still not enough money for them.”