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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here's a brief look at some of the data we're dealing with in Olympia this session:
New revenues coming into the state for 2015-2017: Nearly $3 billion
Increase in revenues over the 2013-2015 budget cycle: 8.6 percent
New taxes Gov. Inslee wants to impose, on top of additional revenues coming in: $1.4 billion
Looking at these numbers, perhaps you can understand why many in Olympia are questioning the governor's huge tax hike proposal. With the state getting an 8.6 percent revenue increase already, it's hard for the governor to justify another $1.4 billion in new taxes.
As we wrap up the third week of the 2015 legislative session, I'd like to give you an update of what's happening in Olympia.
K-12 education funding and the two-year state budget are the big issues this year. We've got a lot on our plate, and lots of opportunities to make some positive changes in our state government.
Please read on for more information, and don't hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, questions and concerns.
It is an honor to serve you.
K-12 funding: Putting kids first
This will be a big year for making progress on K-12 education funding.
In the McCleary decision of 2012, the state Supreme Court held the State of Washington to a 2018 deadline for fully funding basic education. In McCleary, the court found that the state had failed to fulfill its “paramount duty” to provide for the education of all children, as outlined in the state constitution.
Last fall the court held the state in contempt for not producing a plan to fund education. The contempt order sounds more dire than it actually is, since the Legislature by law had to wait until 2015 — a budget-writing year — to pass a new budget.
Building on the success of the last budget, where we boosted K-12 funding by 11.4 percent — this year's budget will include more funding for our public schools. There are disagreements between Republicans and Democrats on where the money will come from, but there is near-universal agreement on the goal of fully-funded education.
As the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee and a new member of the House Appropriations Committee, I'll be deeply involved in funding discussions and will keep you updated on a regular basis.
Education reforms: A crucial component
One of the more overlooked parts of the McCleary ruling is what it says about education reform:
“[F]undamental reforms are needed for Washington to meets its constitutional obligation to its students. Pouring more money into an outmoded system will not succeed.”
This is an essential point. Improving the quality of our students' education is just as important as funding — the two go hand-in-hand.
In future updates I'll go into more detail on the reforms we're proposing. In a nutshell, we want to overhaul the system so we are rewarding and retaining good teachers, ending inequities in the current system, and promoting quality classroom time between students and teachers.
You can view my latest video update on education reforms here.
427 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7876 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000