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Hirst, budget should be priorities

DAILY SUN NEWS EDITORIAL

With the Legislature scheduled to adjourn Sine Die a week from Sunday, lawmakers still have two major topics to tackle — the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision and the biennial budget. So why then is the Legislature still talking about issues like allowing students to have suntan lotion on school campuses?

We think lawmakers should postpone further discussion and action on remaining secondary bills until after problems relating to the Hirst decision are resolved and a budget approved, in that order.

The Hirst decision is already causing undo economic hardship on rural communities, and rural schools by essentially banning drilling of new wells. That ban, in turn, is putting a dent in state tax revenues as property values fall and rural development slows.

Meanwhile, the Legislature remains under a court order to fully fund basic education statewide. But without resolving Hirst first, any education funding measure is just a bandaid.

Lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee could take a cue from Sen. Shelly Short on these issues. Earlier this week, she blasted the governor for calling Hirst a distraction. She also correctly pointed out that rural property tax revenues are the key state budgeting.

Generally speaking, if rural property values decline and development is shuttered, there is less tax revenue in state and local coffers. Failing to account for that decline jeopardizes education for all students.

If lawmakers fail to make Hirst and the biennial budget their Top 2 priorities, they are likely headed for an overtime session — at taxpayer expense.

That’s just not acceptable.

The Legislature should make Hirst and the budget their top priorities today. Then maybe, just maybe, they could wrap up the session on time.

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