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Washington State House of Representatives sends revised “levy cliff” rescue bill to Inslee

Legislation that would rescue school districts in Washington State from the so-called “levy cliff” is on its way to Governor Jay Inslee following an overwhelming vote of approval in the Washington State House of Representatives.

By a vote of eighty-seven to ten, the House voted to give its assent to Engrossed Senate Bill 5023, originally sponsored by Senator Lisa Wellman (D-41st District: Mercer Island, Bellevue, Sammamish, Issaquah). ESB 5023 cleared the Senate last night in a near unanimous vote after difficult negotiations between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats were successfully concluded.

The Senate officially summarized the bill as follows:

  • Delays for one year changes to the formulas for calculating school district maximum maintenance and operation levy authority, and corresponding local effort assistance.
  • Requires local levy revenue to be deposited in to a separate sub-fund beginning in calendar year 2018.
  • Provides that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction must approve the use of maintenance and operation levy proceeds prior to a levy proposition election.

The House’s official summary was a bit more detailed:

  • Delays for one year changes to the formulas for calculating school districts’ maximum maintenance and operation levy authority, and corresponding local effort assistance.
  • Requires districts to submit a report to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction detailing the programs and activities to be supported by a maintenance and operation levy, prior to submittal to the voters for approval.
  • Declares that enrichment beyond the state-provided funding in the omnibus appropriations act for the basic education program components under basic education funding statute s is a permitted use of maintenance and operation levies.
  • Requires school districts to establish a separate sub-fund for levy revenues.

ESB 5023 is similar to HB 1059, which the House passed back in January, but which has languished in the Senate ever since. ESB 5023 was passed without hearings in either house, although HB 1059 received a hearing on January 11th.

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
ESB 5023
Schools/excess levies
Final Passage
3/9/2017

Yeas: 87, Nays: 10, Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Barkis, Bergquist, Blake, Buys, Caldier, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, DeBolt, Dent, Doglio, Dolan, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Griffey, Haler, Hansen, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Hayes, Holy, Hudgins, Irwin, Jenkin, Jinkins, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Klippert, Kloba, Koster, Kraft, Kretz, Lovick, Lytton, MacEwen, Macri, Manweller, Maycumber, McBride, McCabe, McDonald, Morris, Muri, Nealey, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Rodne, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Steele, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van Werven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, J., Wilcox, Wylie, Young, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Chandler, Condotta, Dye, Kristiansen, McCaslin, Orcutt, Pike, Schmick, Shea, Taylor

Excused: Representative Johnson

Democrats voted unanimously in support of the bill and were joined by thirty-seven Republicans. Ten Republicans refused to lend their support.

Governor Inslee is expected to sign ESB 5023 in due course.