Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It was an honor to represent you this year in the Legislature. We just finished the regular 105-day legislative session April 28. Unfortunately, the Legislature was called back for a special session May 13 to address the state operating budget. At this point, only budget negotiations will take place and the rest of the lawmakers will be called in when a compromise has been reached and votes can be taken.
In the meantime, I am back home meeting with constituents and catching up with my family. If you would like to schedule some time to chat in district before I head back to Olympia, please contact my office.
Below is a brief update on the state budget and tax proposals and some of the legislation I have worked on this session. I hope you find it informative.
My only job in Olympia was to share your voice – you have spoken loud and clear at the ballot box that you want a high bar – a two-thirds vote of the Legislature – to increase taxes. Now that the state Supreme Court has thrown out that taxpayer protection, it takes only a simple majority vote, or 50 percent, of the Legislature to increase taxes.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus passed a budget that balanced, added an additional $1.5 billion to K-12 education enhancements, such as pupil transportation and materials, supplies and operating costs.
House Democrats' budget and governor's budget outline both rely on nearly $1.3 billion in new and higher taxes to balance despite tax collections growing by $2 billion over the 2013-15 budget. I voted against the House Democrat budget, but did support some common sense closing of true tax loopholes, such as the one highlighted in the estate tax by the Bracken decision.
The other reason I voted against the House budget is that it funds education last. Even with the additional $2 billion in tax collections that could go toward education, every state government agency and program is funded before the court-mandated enhancements required under the McCleary education funding case. It relies on tax increases to pay for K-12 education, which I believe is the wrong way to go. We should fund education first. Then, if some want to advocate for new and higher taxes on citizens, those new dollars would be paying for our lowest priorities, not our highest.
To the right is a chart compiled by nonpartisan legislative staff comparing the three budget proposals. I would welcome your thoughts on the budgets. I know there is a middle ground we can find that ensures our top priorities – education, public safety and care for the most vulnerable – are funded within tax collections.
Tax package debate
Many of us made the case that we can balance the state operating budget within the naturally-growing tax collections. The additional $2 billion we are already going to have in the budget, thanks to taxpayers, is more than enough for a down payment on K-12 reforms and enhancements. But, that requires budget writers to fund education first.
You can watch my floor speeches on the tax bill debate and funding education first by clicking on the picture below.
House Bill 1472 – Provides for initiatives that will engage high school students in computer science fields. This is extremely important because there are many good-paying jobs in the computer science fields but not enough people with the right skills and interests to fill them. We must begin thinking about what jobs will be available for our children and see if we can match their interests with these future career opportunities. You can read an article on this bill here.
House Bill 1477 – Provides more local control for schools to address truancy issues with students by changing the state perimeters on truancy actions. Right now, there is a set protocol in state law – a one-size-fits-all approach – but we know that the people on the ground in school districts are better equipped to address issues impacting students and create guidelines surrounding how chronic truancy is addressed.
House Bill 1633 – Revises bidding requirements for improvement and repair projects of school districts. Competitive bidding is required for purchases, repairs, and improvements by state agencies and municipalities, including school districts, with a few exceptions like emergency repairs. School districts have the authority to make repairs and improvements, and make purchases without competitive bidding when the work or purchases of goods, not including books, are below $40,000. This measure would increase the limit for purchases, repairs, and improvements that require competitive bidding from $40,000 to $75,000. This is a simple fix that will speed up needed repairs and save school district resources.
House Bill 1818 – This bill puts in place clear requirements for state agencies to work collaboratively to ensure the state's regulatory climate is improved for small businesses. We hear so often that for a small business to receive all the licenses it needs to operate within the laws the business owner must contact several state agencies that do not share information. This bill, which is awaiting the governor's signature to become law, will start the process of cross-agency communication so our business owners receive the customer service they deserve in order to operate their businesses, hire people and expand. It's one government reform bill that will begin to help our job creators.
Please feel free to call me with any questions or concerns.
427 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7876 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000