Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is with great disappointment I share with you the Legislature convened its second special session last Friday. A handful of Democrats promised new tax increases, even though the latest May revenue forecast revealed our state will have an additional $415 million for the ongoing and next budget cycles. That totals $3.2 billion in new revenue for 2015-17, a 9.2 percent increase from the last budget cycle. There is plenty of money to fund state government priorities, including teacher and public employee COLAs, improvements to our mental health system, collective bargaining agreements, and reductions in college tuition. Even our governor agrees.
Though I believe the Legislature could have accomplished its work within the first 105 days of regular session, I'm hopeful an agreement can be reached soon so we can wrap up this overtime and go home. Late last week, the needle toward session adjournment moved slightly as Senate Republicans released their new operating budget proposal and passed it out of committee. House Democrats unveiled their new operating budget proposal Monday and held a public hearing on Tuesday.
As budget negotiations continue, I encourage you contact me with your questions, concerns or suggestions. It's important I hear from you during this crucial time.
Final days of the 2015 first special session
While lawmakers were in Olympia last week, we passed some important legislation, including a school testing reform bill that maintains rigor in our schools and a measure that improves the timeliness for competency evaluations for incarcerated mentally ill individuals.
We also overcame a major budget hurdle by passing the 2015-17 transportation budget. To be clear, this budget is not a revenue package and only spends money that has already been raised. Among other projects, this budget provides funding for the repair and replacement of structurally deficient bridges, fish passage barrier removal, collective bargaining agreements for Washington State Patrol, and more. The bill now heads to the governor's desk for approval.