- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Senate’s majority caucus proposed a supplementary budget Monday that increases funding for a soon-to-be signed measure expanding college financial aid to include students who were brought to the state illegally as children.

The budget proposal also has additional money for technology in K-12 classrooms, a medical-marijuana registry in Washington state, a new prison unit and wildfire suppression.

“It really builds on what we did last year,” Redmond Republican Sen. Andy Hill, who is the chairman of the budget-writing committee, said of the proposal. “Last year we did the heavy lifting.”

In 2013, the Legislature approved a $33.6 billion, two-year state operating budget.

Under the Senate proposal, the State Need Grant Program would receive an additional $5 million related to the immigrant financial aid bill known as the Dream Act or Real Hope Act. In addition, $25 million would go to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Program, which gives scholarships to students pursuing a four-year degree in a field of study that’s in high demand. A ban on increasing resident undergraduate tuition would be extended for the 2014-2015 school year.

For K-12 education, just over $38 million would go toward technology-related materials and supplies for the classroom, in what Hill called an investment in meeting the requirements of the 2012 McCleary decision. In that decision, the Washington Supreme Court said the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to amply pay the cost of basic education and that the state depends too much on local dollars.

“My caucus certainly agrees with making K-12 a priority,” said Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He added that he worked on the proposal, calling it a bipartisan effort.

Among other spending ideas, the Senate proposal would also provide $2 million toward the creation of a medical-marijuana registry, $5 million for a new 265-bed prison unit at the Washington State Penitentiary for men and nearly $7 million for wildfire suppression.

Inslee unveiled his supplemental budget proposal in December, calling for about $200 million more in spending.

The Senate proposal would seek less additional spending, adding $96 million.

“The proposal acknowledges the pressing need to address our constitutional obligation to basic education,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Monday. “While the Senate proposal does not go far enough in that regard, it’s a start. I urge the House to make a more substantial investment in education - one that does more to provide our students with the classroom tools they need and restores cost-of-living raises for our teachers.”

Inslee said that his staff and agencies are looking closely at the proposal to understand how it could affect state services and that he plans to work with the Legislature in the coming weeks to reach a final budget agreement.

There will be a hearing for the Senate supplemental budget Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Hill said. He hopes a vote will happen in the full Senate Thursday, he added.

House Democrats are expected to release a supplementary budget proposal this week.

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