Senate Responds With Budget and Revenue Package

This weekend  the Washington State Senate released and passed a proposed biennial operating budget for the 2013-15 biennium, along with a revenue package and reform legislation.

The budget released by the Senate is similar to the budget proposed at the end of April with two major exceptions.

The Senate passed three policy bills deemed necessary from the Senate’s perspective for a final budget deal.  The bills expand a worker’s compensation settlement program, reform the management of K-12 schools and places the emphasis  in the state budget on public education (early learning through higher education) by limiting spending on non-education programs. The education reform bill and the spending limit bill contain referendum clauses forcing a public vote on these issues.

In addition, the Senate passed a series of three revenue bills that would increase revenues to the state by approximately $300 million. The revenue package differs from the one passed last week by the House.

The Senate revenue package includes a requirement that non-residents apply for sales tax refunds instead of receiving these refunds automatically.  In addition the package includes two additional changes to current taxes including ending a tax break for residential phone services  and offering a fix to the recent ruling on the estate tax by the courts. The revenues generated from the telecommunications tax and the estate tax would go to support state human service programs.  The proposal passed by the Senate does not seek to close additional tax exemptions as put forward by the House.

Higher Education

The proposed budget assumes no increases in resident undergraduate tuition rates for the 2013-15 biennium. The budget provides $58.2 million in funding to support the core academic functions of the institutions of higher education and an additional $50 million in recognition of the institutions performance in support of statewide goals relating to student retention and degree completion. Finally the budget makes an investment in financial aid.

Additional dollars are provided to WSU to expand their medical programs in Spokane and to establish the Center on Ocean Acidification within the UW.

The investments in the Senate proposal are funded in part with dollars that would be generated from a 20% surcharge on international students who attend the two- and four-year public institutions.

Evergreen

For Evergreen the Senate’s proposed budget would require that tuition remain at zero for the 2013-15 biennium for undergraduate resident students. The College may increase tuition beyond this level but would be required to invest in institutional financial aid.

In addition the budget provides $1.159 million above maintenance level funding to  support the core academic functions of the institutions of higher education and $953,000  in recognition of the College’s performance in support of statewide goals relating to student retention and degree completion.

Finally, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a public service center of Evergreen, is funded to support six study/research projects for the Legislature.

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