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Washington Legislature Convenes With Goal of Replacing Funding Formula

Washington's state legislature convened for  its 2017 session Monday, and at the top of its agenda this year is to answer a long-standing 2012 court ruling that requires the state to pick up more of its public education tab.  

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee said he will place in his budget a proposed carbon tax on companies that generate or import electricity, natural gas or oil, refineries, and fuel importers. It would be one of the nation's first of its kind and has gotten strong pushback from the state's business community. 

A similar ballot measure last November that would have increased the state's carbon tax in order to decrease the state's sales tax failed.  

Inslee's proposed tax this year would raise close to $2 billion in its first year, and Inslee wants to dedicate the majority of that money to increasing teachers' pay, according to the Associated Press. 

In the 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington decision, the state's supreme court ruled that the state should pick up a greater share of education costs. Since that ruling, the state has increased its education funding by $2 billion, but has yet to address the most expensive part of the ruling, which is to increase the state's teacher pay. That's estimated to cost $2.75 billion over the next three years. In the meantime, the court is fining the legislature $100,000 for every day lawmakers are in session and doesn't come up with a new funding formula. The court set a deadline of September 2018.  

A task force convened by Inslee last year came out with two party-affiliated proposals, according to the Associated Press. The Democrats' proposal would increase taxes in several areas, while the Republican proposal only gave "guiding principles," including that education should remain a top funding priority. 


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