Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After 60 days of a regular legislative session, a 30-day special legislative session was called so majority Democrats could finalize their state operating budget and tax increase plans. Unfortunately, the end result of these 90 days is to the detriment of struggling individuals, families and small businesses. I talk about the major decisions that were made, and solutions that were not allowed to move forward, in my district newsletter that was mailed last week. In case you did not receive it, you can read a copy here. If you have any problems viewing it, please contact me.
If you do not have time to read all of my newsletter, below you will find an abbreviated version and a few extra items. I hope you find the information useful.
This will be the last e-mail update I can send you until after the general election in November due to election-year restrictions. However, I'm allowed to respond to you should you contact me regarding this e-mail update or any other issue.
While the legislative sessions are over, I'm your state representative throughout the year. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns, if you need a speaker for a group, or if you would like assistance with state government. I'm always happy to help.
Filling the $2.8 billion state operating budget hole
Below is a snapshot of the final plan to fill the $2.8 billion state operating budget hole. This approach does not address the fundamental problem with our budget: the state will still spend more than it will take in. This is unsustainable and we can expect an estimated $3 billion shortfall in the next budget cycle.
- $794 million in new tax increases;
- $661 million in state spending reductions;
- $633 million in uncertain federal funds;
- $328 million in transfers from dedicated state accounts;
- $256 million in reserves; and
- $178 million in cost shifts to other accounts.
Suspending the Taxpayer Protection Act (Initiative 960)
The Taxpayer Protection Act, Initiative 960, was passed by voters in 2007. This law, among other things, required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes as a means of requiring broad, bipartisan support. However, after just two years, an initiative can be suspended by a simple majority vote of the Legislature. Unfortunately, the majority suspended the Taxpayer Protection Act in the regular legislative session through the narrow passage of Senate Bill 6130. I voted against this measure because it signified the majority's abandonment of any attempt to work for bipartisan solutions to our budget and fiscal challenges.
New tax increases will hurt job creation, add to the burdens of those who are struggling
Accountants, architects, attorneys, banks, dentists, direct sellers, graphic artists, hairstylists, optometrists, real estate agents, and veterinarians will now pay more in their business and occupation (B&O) tax. These costs, in turn, will get passed on to consumers. Citizens will now also have to pay more taxes on their beer, bottled water, candy, canned meats, cigarettes, gum, and soda. When added over the next three years, these new tax increases total $2.5 billion.
Instead of new tax increases, state lawmakers should have been finding ways to create jobs and strengthen the economy. I supported a “Made in Washington” plan that would have created jobs through real regulatory relief, health care reform and clean, low-cost energy. Nearly all of these solutions were dismissed.
Returning to a priorities of government budget model
Our state must return to a bipartisan, priorities of government model used successfully by Gov. Gary Locke and Sen. Dino Rossi in 2003. This means living within our means, and aligning our priorities and funding on the core services of state government: K-12 education, public safety and the protection of our most vulnerable. This is why I supported reform proposals to:
- privatize state liquor stores;
- allow competition in our state-run workers' compensation insurance system;
- reform the state's Basic Health Plan;
- eliminate the state Department of Printing; and
- outsource other state services.
All of these solutions were alternatives to continued state spending and new tax increases, and none of them were allowed to move forward. This was very disappointing because we had a real chance to reform our budgeting process.
Ensuring our communities are safe
Several bipartisan public safety measures passed in the regular legislative session and I'm proud to have supported all of them. Some of the highlights include:
- House Bill 2777 increases penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders;
- House Bill 2625 allows judges latitude to determine if bail is appropriate for offenders arrested
on felony charges;
- House Bill 2424 updates child exploitation laws to reflect use of the Internet to view and share sexually explicit photos;
- Senate Bill 6476 increases penalties for those who abuse children by selling them into prostitution, and provides specialized services for children who have been abused through sex trafficking; and
- House Joint Resolution 4220 would allow more discretion for judges to deny bail to suspects facing a life sentence and who are deemed dangerous to the community. Since this would involve a state constitutional amendment, voters will have the final say in November.
Improving our public school system
In the 2009 legislative session, an important measure passed that set our state on a meaningful path to education funding reform. House Bill 2261 created a roadmap to define and fund basic education. This past regular legislative session, our state took another vital step forward with the passage of House Bill 2776. This measure will:
- implement a new pupil transportation funding method;
- accelerate the workgroups focused on local levy and teacher compensation issues;
- require a phase-in of smaller classes of 17 students in K-3rd grade by the 2015-16 school year;
- ensure increased funding for maintenance and operations (costs the state currently provides about half the funding for); and
- establish a new prototypical school funding model that will simplify the budget process and increase transparency.
Preserving funding for Mt. Si, Little Si and Rattlesnake trailheads
I'm happy to report that funding for the maintenance and operations of the Mt. Si, Little Si and Rattlesnake Lake trailheads was preserved. These trailheads host approximately 500,000 visitors each year in the Upper Snoqualmie Valley and are important not only for recreationalists, but also our local businesses.