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caption: Jackson Elementary student Jared Rodriguez, center, attends class in Amanda Baker's 4th-grade classroom on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at Jackson Elementary School along Federal Avenue in Everett. With hybrid learning, students have the option to attend in-person classes two days per week.
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Jackson Elementary student Jared Rodriguez, center, attends class in Amanda Baker's 4th-grade classroom on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at Jackson Elementary School along Federal Avenue in Everett. With hybrid learning, students have the option to attend in-person classes two days per week.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington Dem’s budget: Vaccines, family tax credit, schools reopening

How should the state of Washington prioritize its spending over the next two years? That's the question budget writers in the state Legislature have been grappling with for months.

Now, majority Democrats in the House and Senate have unveiled their spending blueprints.

The proposals are a significant increase in spending over the current budget.

Democrats say now is the time to spend more to speed the state's economic recovery and address inequities revealed by the pandemic. And the list of priorities is long. Here are a few key spending proposals, as noted by KUOW's Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins.

One-time spending proposals

  • Nearly $2 billion in federal grants to help schools and address learning loss during the pandemic; the House budget goes further, proposing an additional five days in next year's school calendar to make up for lost classroom time
  • $1 billion to keep fighting the pandemic, including to ramp up vaccinations
  • Money to expand access to affordable child care and replenish the relief fund for immigrant workers.

Ongoing spending priorities

  • Forest health and wildfire risk
  • An independent office to investigate police use of deadly force
  • A new crisis response program, where a caller would dial 988 instead of 911

Plus, the proposed budgets would increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to healthcare providers and fund the Working Families Tax Credit, which has been on the state books for more than a decade but has never been funded.

The proposals assume the passage of a state capital gains tax aimed at the wealthiest Washingtonians. Democrats say that money would go toward expanding access to child care and to fund the Working Families Tax Credit; however, the future of the tax is uncertain, as it's likely to be challenged in court and could be subject to a referendum even if it is signed into law.

Listen for more details by clicking the audio above.