Lawmakers should stash cash to fund basic education

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The state of Washington must increase the amount of money it provides local school districts to pay for basic education.

The problem, and it’s not a new one, is the state doesn’t have the cash on hand. The economy has been improving, resulting in an increase in tax revenue, but there still aren’t enough unspent dollars to meet the state Supreme Court’s demand to fully fund basic education.

Coming up with more cash can’t be done by closing up a few tax loopholes or trimming a few state offices. It has to be a lot of money. The high court is expecting some serious money to be spent.

But Gov. Jay Inslee’s call last week for adding $200 million in spending this year and raising the pay of teachers isn’t going to get the Legislature moving in the same direction on education funding.

To the contrary, it’s quickly pitted the Democrat-controlled House against the Senate, run by the Republicans (and a few conservative Democrats).

The reaction of Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom to Inslee’s request — “No ... We already addressed the money issues this last time with over a billion dollars.”

While that $1 billion is a lot of money, it isn’t enough according to the high court.

Having lawmakers and the governor bickering through the 60-day session on the $200 millio and the pay raise won’t be helpful.

Instead, the various factions need to take small bites out of this big problem. Since the tax revenue is on the rise, legislators need to save the cash that’s not been allocated. In time, assuming the rosy projections are correct, a lot of money could be set aside.

And by not adding cash to essentially fuel the growth of state government, now less money will be needed to balance the budget inthe future.

If done correctly, the tax revenue could be enough to sustain the higher level of education funding.

Yes, battles in Olympia will take place over the need to fund this or that. Every state program and service is important to somebody.

But if it is understood by Republicans and Democrats that the top priority is to ramp up education spending, the Legislature should be moving forward this year and next.

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