Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Governor's Statements on McCleary

I attended the Governor's press conference yesterday about the meeting he had with legislative leadership that afternoon about the Washington State Supreme Court's response to the most recent state budget passed.

Summary of his statement
He had just finished his meeting with Legislative leaders for next steps to improve public education for children.

He says they have "significant improvements with all-day K, early childhood learning and smaller class sizes."  (I think he means that is to come with the next infusion of McCleary.)

He said - as did Superintendent Dorn in a conversation we had earlier in that day - that equity was now a big issue.  He said there are many imbalances for districts throughout the state.

He said he urged lawmakers to work with him and other colleagues for next steps toward equity and complying with Court. He said they would go back to their respective caucuses and work on a plan and then there would be another meeting this week.  The next meeting is likely to be by telephone and naturally, closed to the public. 

Here's where I felt somewhat dismayed.  He makes this sound like (1) it's going to be easy to do and (2) his wording on what needs to get done was worrying.

He said that legally what they had to do is present a plan to the Court that was more detailed in how the Legislature means to fulfill McCleary.  He said:
“It is my hope that legislators, in the days and weeks to come, will try to fashion a plan that we can pass in both chambers,” he said. “If that can be done—and I don’t think there should be a reason to believe it can’t or shouldn’t be done, even though this is tough—then the legislature can be called in for a session that can take hours to get the vote and get it done.”
So the two sides - Dems and GOP - could create a plan and pass it in a one-day session.

BUT he said they didn't necessarily need to fully explain where the money is coming from because that is not what the Court is asking.

He said the Court is looking for a plan for a solution and not implementation of the plan.  

Questions (partial)

He was asked about the money for McCleary and said that "Phase 3" of the Legislature's plan came with "major infusions of money" during the last sessions.  However, he then said that with the Court's latest ruling there is more "urgency."

I asked him if maybe the issue of funding for public education wasn't the real issue but that the real issue was how we fund our entire state.

He was having none of it and went in another direction saying that his reading of the ruling does not necessarily require an implementation plan or revenue source.

(His staff said later that money wasn't just the issue - it was where the money would go and how it would be used.  They said that detail was a very complicated issue.)

He was asked about the fine that was growing each day.  He said that this issue needs to be resolved and lawmakers know it.

He was asked what the Court might think of this effort and he said, "We do what we think is right and let the chips fall where they may." 

He did not stay long but some of his staff did stay and answered some more questions.  A couple of reporters asked where the legislators were (it was Chopp, Sullivan ,Rolfes and Nelson) and did they go out a back way.  Staff just shrugged said they didn't know.

Then they were asked if the legislators had been asked if they wanted to come out with the Governor.  Staff said the legislators declined.  I spoke up and said, "Not one of them wanted to stand with him?" which apparently was too blunt (I got a sharp glance from one guy who said, "That's one way to put it.")  But geez Louise, this is a huge issue for everyone involved and no one wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Governor?

It is clear the Governor wants to stay as far away from talking about any new revenue stream as possible.

Last thing - those fines?  They are not being collected as 1) there is no mechanism to do so (that's a legislative job) and 2) no account to put money into anyway.  What will happen is when the Legislature resumes in January, they will have to designate someplace the total accumulated by then to go.

I'm thinking that if the Legislature comes thru with this by what? early September (because I'm thinking this can might get kicked down the road until after Labor Day), then how long will it take for the Supreme Court to assess it?  We could be looking at January 2016 anyway.


Anonymous said...

Did the court or the Gov mention I-1351? Pragmatically, the levy swap and perhaps a tax break or two added in will be the legislature's next action. Then, the final item in a year or so, I-1351 which will be a hot potato bouncing back and forth from the court to the legislature.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't believe either party mentioned 1351; they mention class size but that could be only in the context of K-3.

Anonymous said...

That's because I-1351 was not part of the contempt order nor was class size reduction on the scale of I-1351 included in HB 2276 nor HB 2261. Those bills redefine the program of basic education, which is the purview of the legislature and not the court.

The legislature suspended I-1351. It is not a factor in the lawsuit.

LA Law

Benjamin Leis said...

I view this as a constitutional crisis. There's nothing the court can really do to force the legislature to act. What if they don't earmark money when they come back into session for instance? To quote President Andrew Jackson: " "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

Anonymous said...

@LA Law, thanks for the info.