There will be many key issues before the Washington State Legislature during the 2015 session, but one of them — education — was emphasized by Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-32nd District) in a presentation to the Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce during its August networking breakfast Thursday morning.
Kagi began by noting that recent redistricting moved the City of Lynnwood from the 21st Legislative District into the 32, and that was one of the reasons for her chamber presentation — so people get to know her. (The 32nd District also represents Shoreline, Woodway, south Edmonds and nearby unincorporated areas of southwest Snohomish County.)
A 16-year member of the state Legislature, Kagi chairs the House of Representative’s Early Learning/Human Services Committee and is a passionate advocate of early childhood education. She reiterated her belief that an investment in ensuring that students are ready for kindergarten — by providing all children with high-quality preschool — will save money later by lowering remediation costs in the classroom.
She also talked about the 2012 McCleary decision, in which the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the State of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of children by failing to live up to its “paramount duty” to amply fund the education of all K-12 students.
Kagi noted that the Legislature has been ordered to appear before the Washington State Supreme Court next week — Sept. 3 — and show the court how it has followed its orders in the McCleary decision to make measurable progress toward full education funding by 2018 — or be held in contempt.
Money for education will be one of many “critical needs” that the Legislature will face during the 2014 session, which Kagi predicted would be “grueling” and “contentious” and “likely to last a long time.”
To make up for budget shortfalls, legislators are going to focus on “revenue options” including revisiting the idea of a state income tax, Kagi said.
A business owner in attendance asked Kagi if she believed that the Legislature would once again attempt to add a sales tax to service businesses. She replied that while such a tax is likely to be discussed, it has been an unpopular option during past legislative sessions.
Gas tax revenues are also falling due to the fact that people are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, which puts highway funding in jeopardy, she added.