House Republicans not interested in costly special session to cut education, raise taxes

At the heart of debate is measure that pits affluent school districts against property poor school districts

Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives say they do not support bringing lawmakers back to Olympia for a special legislative session, as proposed by the governor today. The cost of a special session is estimated at $20,000 a day, and House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said the work left undone does not warrant the hit to taxpayers in these tough economic times.

Among the handful of bills majority Democrats and the governor still want to pass is a measure that would cut levy equalization funding to a vast majority of school districts and allow property-rich districts, such as Bellevue, to raise local property taxes.

“We’re not interested in coming back to cut funding for schools and put an additional burden on local taxpayers,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis.

“The fact that we are talking about this is indicative of this Legislature’s work this year. The majority party showed a stunning lack of priorities. They spent three months of a three-and-a-half month session doing very little. And now they’re telling taxpayers they need to come back at a cost of twenty thousand dollars a day for a special session because they ran out of time. Republicans aren’t convinced we need to come back. It’s not necessary and it’s not in the best interests of our schools and our taxpayers,” said DeBolt.

House Republicans mounted a strong opposition to the school funding cuts in the closing hours of regular session, which ended at midnight Sunday. House Bill 1776 would cut funding for more than 220 school districts throughout Washington, from large districts like Spokane, Federal Way and Vancouver, to small rural districts such as Adna and Washtucna.

The ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, Rep. Skip Priest, R-Federal Way, noted that coming back to pile additional cuts on the majority of schools while allowing property-rich districts to get more out of local taxpayers runs counter to the state’s obligation to fund education.

“This is Robin Hood’s nemesis. The debate is not just about poor and rural school districts. There are districts around the state, from Federal Way to Prosser and Brewster to Spokane, that have large populations, but don’t have the Bellevue Square or South Center Mall to pay the property tax tab for school levies,” said Priest. “Our duty as lawmakers is to provide ample and uniform funding so every student has an opportunity to be successful. It should be our first priority. Instead, the last bill on the table this session was a measure to cut levy equalization, which will pit property-rich locations against property-poor areas of the state. Instead of talking about what we can do to help our schools, we’re talking about balancing the state budget on the backs of our teachers and children.

“The governor can choose to bring us back into a costly special session, but our position on this is not going to change. Republicans will continue to demand that the state fund the fundamentals of education, take care of our most vulnerable and maintain a balanced state budget without tax increases,” Priest said.

GOP lawmakers said they were equally disappointed that the 105-day legislative session failed to address the economic uncertainty Washington families are facing. They say they will push to make jobs and economic recovery the focus of the next regular legislative session scheduled for January 2010.

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For more information, contact:  Lisa Fenton, Communications Director – (360) 786-7728


Washington State House Republican Communications