Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the final operating budget of her career Wednesday, saying she was pleased that it makes no cuts to education — a feat achieved “by the skin of our teeth.”
But that won’t be possible in the future without a new revenue source, Gregoire warned. It will cost about $1 billion to meet constitutional and “moral” obligations to the K-12 education system alone, she said at the bill signing.
“If anyone understands the harsh reality of the future, it’s me,” she said. “We cannot properly fund education in this state without more money.”
Gregoire said she was disappointed the Legislature didn’t eliminate more tax breaks after she gave them a list of options “as long as the room.” In the end, the Legislature ended a tax deduction that big banks can claim on first-time mortgages. That’s expected to generate about $15 million a year in new revenue, and another $12 million is expected to come from taxes added to roll-your-own cigarettes.
Many lawmakers opposed the roll-your-own measure, saying that it would put store owners out of business who have invested as much as $30,000 in the machines. But Gregoire said it is only right that people pay taxes on the product because “in the end, taxpayers pay the health care costs.”
The budget included several partial vetoes that will bring the ending fund balance down to $311 million. The original budget left about $320 in reserves.
Watch the full bill signing ceremony here.