On Friday, Lt. Gov. Habib signed the second bill to pass both houses of the Legislature this session, ESB 5023, which relieves school districts from the “levy cliff.” ESB 5023 helps the state’s K-12 schools avoid a $500 million budget cut, which would have occurred if school districts were forced to return to pre-2012 standards in the level of funding they are allowed to raise through local property tax levies.
In the 2012 McCleary decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the state was failing to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education and must remedy this failure by 2018. That same year, the state temporarily increased the amount school districts were allowed to raise through levies—from 24 percent to 28 percent. The increase was set to expire this year. Yet, the Legislature has not yet agreed on a funding plan to supplement the amount set to be lost (approximately $500 million). The levy cliff bill effectively extends the length of time in which school districts can raise 28 percent of their funding through levies by one year, granting schools some stability while the state resolves the larger issue of complying with the McCleary decision.
The bill was officially passed this week by both the House and Senate. As Senate president, Habib signs bills to certify their approval by the Legislature before they make their way to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for final action.