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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee Proposes More Prison Beds, No Teacher COLAs In Budget Update

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Austin Jenkins
/
Northwest News Network
Members of the Washington Education Association wore these buttons to Governor Jay Inslee’s supplemental budget rollout to signify five years without voter-approved cost-of-living increases.";

More prison beds, but no cost of living raises for school teachers are two takeaways after Washington Governor Jay Inslee proposed a modest update to the state’s two-year budget.

Think of the governor’s supplemental budget proposal as a list of bullet points. Here are just three.

  • Inslee proposes to open a 256-bed medium security unit at the Washington State Penitentiary -- and contract with a county jail for 64 additional beds for female inmates. This is to address rising prison populations and reduce crowding.
  • Inslee proposes to fund a union negotiated 8 percent rate increase for family home child care providers. But he says teacher cost of living increases will have to wait for the next two-year budget cycle.
  •  Inslee wants to reverse cuts to the state’s Tobacco Quitline and tobacco cessation services.

These are all just proposals to the legislature and lawmakers may or may not agree when they reconvene in January.

Meanwhile, Governor Inslee says the state’s tax system is outdated and insufficient to cover expenses.

“And as a result of the antiquated fiscal situation in the state of Washington, the demands for services by our citizens are significantly outstripping the ability of this old jalopy to produce the mechanism for providing those services.”

Inslee says he will continue to push for the elimination of what he calls “unproductive tax loopholes.”

Senate budget chair Andy Hill, a Republican, called tax increases the “easy” solution. Instead he’s banking on future revenues from other sources.

“Marijuana is one place we have revenues coming in, internet sales tax, we need work at the federal level we think eventually we will get that," says Hill. "And if you continue to look at reprioritizing your spending I think there are ways to get there.”

The debate Tuesday is the latest development in an ongoing discussion in Olympia about taxes and spending.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."