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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now in the final week of the 60-day 2014 legislative session. At this point, the House has passed our versions of the supplemental state operating, capital and transportation budgets. The Senate has passed their versions of the budgets. The negotiations to find a compromise will begin taking place to ensure we finish our work by March 13.
I voted against the House version of the supplemental state operating budget. One of the main reasons I objected to the budget put forward by the House majority party is that it relied on $100 million in new and higher taxes on things like non-resident sales tax, prescription drugs and bottled water, among other items to balance. The argument given for needing these tax increases is to add more money to K-12 education. I believe we should fund education before any other program. However, this budget holds students hostage to unpopular tax increases – some of which voters have repealed in a statewide ballot measure, including bottled water. This is the wrong time to ask more from taxpayers, many of whom are struggling under a fragile economy and a job market that is slow to recover. Here is a great editorial from The Seattle Times that offers some insight on the House majority party budget:
I voted in favor of the supplemental state capital budget, the state budget that funds our brick and mortar infrastructure around the state. This spending plan is critical to ensuring we support cities and counties with critical infrastructure, such as water and sewer upgrades. These necessary upgrades create jobs and build projects to help economic development in our communities for decades to come. Tied to this budget is House Bill 2797, which would put as much as $700 million toward building schools to reduce K-3 class sizes and comply with the state Supreme Court's Jan. 9 order in the McCleary decision to fully fund education. In the January order, the state Supreme Court reinforced the urgency for action in this area stating, “…Make no mistake enhanced funding for full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction is essential, but the State must account for the actual cost to schools of providing these components of basic education.”
House Bill 2797 also attempts to fulfill the requirements of I-728, which passed by 71.7 percent in 2000, and in all counties. It directed state lottery revenues to be dedicated to education construction for, “providing improvement or additions to facilities to support class-size reductions…” We cannot promise lower class sizes without the classroom space to house our students and teachers.
I voted in favor of the supplemental state transportation budget, which did not include a gas tax increase. Part of the budget uses already-existing revenues from the gas tax, vehicle fees and tolls. There is also significant carryover from the 2011-13 transportation budget, representing projects that haven't yet been finished. This plan continues the progress on road projects that are already funded.
There is still talk of new and higher transportation taxes and fees. However, I believe serious reforms must be enacted that add accountability and transparency within the Washington State Department of Transportation before we consider asking more from hardworking taxpayers. We cannot continue funding failures, such as the Seattle Tunnel Project and the 520 Bridge. Without greater oversight and accountability, we are spending good money on bad results.
The next step for these budgets is for the House and Senate come to a final, bipartisan agreement. All sides are very close, so I do not see any reason for the Legislature to be here longer than required this year. You can watch my legislative video on these budgets here.
As always, if you have questions about the budgets or any other legislative issue, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7852 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000