State edges closer to final budget

State lawmakers have released an outline of some cuts likely to be included in the final state budget. The legislature's plan, backed by majority-holding Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate, reduces funds to public education, allows for higher education tuition hikes, cuts health care availability, but leaves state parks open.

The plan cuts $794 million to K-12 education, suspends I-732 for two years, the initiative which supports cost of living raises for teachers, and cuts nearly two-thirds of I-728, the initiative to help lower class sizes. According to the two-page document released by the legislature, the average school district will see a state funding cut of 2.6 percent.

College students will see a tuition increase, outlined to be 7 percent at the University of Washington and Washington State University, 6.5 percent at regional universities and 6 percent at local community colleges. Over the next four years, expect those tuition prices to rise 14 percent at four year schools and 7 percent at community colleges. Higher education will have 9,000 fewer enrollment slots.

The state's Basic Health Plan will cut 40,000 employees, saving approximately $255 million overall.

On the opposite side, the legislature appears to have decided to leave all state parks open, with funds raised from the new $5 opt-in fee from license tabs going toward the maintenance and operations of parks.

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