Senator Andy Billig, D-Spokane, released the following statement today regarding the Senate Republican majority’s operating budget proposal:

“While the Republican budget proposal has some positive aspects, in its current form it fails to deliver for the Spokane community.

“In the area of education, this budget makes a positive step forward by dedicating new funding for K-12 public schools, but it does not meet our state’s constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. Further, the additional funding that is provided comes at the expense of our state’s most vulnerable citizens through cuts to programs that help children, families, seniors and the blind and disabled. 

“I will advocate for the Senate to move closer to Governor Inslee’s education budget, which provided $1.2 billion in additional K-12 funding and focused the spending on areas that will increase quality.

“This budget also comes up short in early learning with a large sweep of funds from Working Connections Child Care, an important early learning program for Spokane and our entire state. I have co-sponsored a bill that will be introduced tomorrow which will help address this important need for our community.

“I want to compliment the Republican budget writers for embracing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act by accepting Medicaid expansion and helping to extend health insurance to 260,000 low income citizens in our state. This expansion provides the double benefit of saving the state money while expanding access to health care.

“Another positive piece of the budget is the inclusion of operational funding for the Spokane Medical School, our community’s number-one economic development priority. I advocated strongly for this funding and I am pleased that $6.8 million for medical education and biomedical research is included for the Spokane Medical School.

“My budget priorities continue to be job creation with a focus on strengthening the middle class, expanding educational opportunity, improving quality of life, and providing a safety net and helping hand for the most vulnerable in our community.

“As I continue to work on the operating budget, feedback from constituents is vital. I welcome comments and suggestions as we move forward with the budget process over the coming weeks.”