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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."

Education Spending In Focus As Washington Legislature Nears Halfway Mark

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The House Chamber inside the Washington State Capitol in Olympia.

Washington lawmakers are approaching the halfway mark of their 105-day session. Hot issues include marijuana, mental health, oil trains and cap-and-trade.

But the heavy lift for lawmakers will be writing a new two-year operating budget that increases funding for public schools. Both House Democrats and Senate Republicans will unveil dueling budget proposals in the weeks ahead.

Back in December, Governor Jay Inslee proposed his vision of how the next two-year budget should look. That included a very robust tax package to fund public schools and other priorities. You’re now going to see what the House Democrats and Senate Republicans think. You can expect that we’re likely to see tax proposals from Democrats, but probably not from Republicans.

The House will go first with its proposed two-year budget and then they’re going to have to start to work to bridge their differences.

Washington lawmakers are currently in contempt of court over school funding. They also face pressure to fund cost-of-living increases for teachers and state employees. And they’ll need to decide what to do about a new voter-approved class-size measure that comes with a $2 billion price tag for the next budget.

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."