Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature finally wrapped up work for the year March 29. This session, lawmakers were tasked with passing a supplemental budget that made small, midcourse adjustments to the two-year spending plan we passed in June 2015 and funded emergencies. While it took what many felt was an unnecessary 20 days of overtime, we accomplished just that. The supplemental budget as passed by the Legislature last week increases spending by only half-a-percent, avoids major tax increases proposed by the governor and House Democrats, and balances over four years as required by state law. Here are some of the highlights:
- $15 million for K-12 education, including $5 million to recruit and retain K-12 staff.
- More than $40 million for mental-health programs.
- $4.2 million to keep public charter schools open.
- $16 million for early learning and child care.
- $190 million from the Budget Stabilization Account, our state's rainy day fund, to pay for last year's wildfires.
- And more!
In addition to the budget, the Legislature took a historic vote to override the governor's vetoes from March 10. The day the Legislature was supposed to adjourn for the year, Gov. Jay Inslee took the unusual move to veto 27 bills in order to prod budget negotiators. These bills established policies to help higher education students with disabilities, authorized the growing of industrial hemp, evaluated out-of-pocket costs for patients, and would have made credit transfers easier between four-year and two-year institutions. Most of these bills originally passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. You can read about the 27 bills in this article. Needless to say his tactic didn't work and lawmakers entered a 20-day special session. A lot of work goes into any bill that passes the Legislature, and it was disappointing the governor would take out his frustrations on budget disagreements by jeopardizing good legislation.
A number of folks have asked me what happened by way of transportation projects in the 5th District. This supplemental budget cycle, I worked with the House Transportation Committee to secure $150,000 for a new congestion-relief study on State Route 169 and $100,000 for improvements on arterial roads in North Bend near Exit 34 on I-90. Both of these projects are good first steps to achieving safer highways in our district. And on I-405? There was some movement this year by the Legislature and the Washington State Transportation Commission to make improvements, but some believe those changes don't go far enough. About $45 million is dedicated in the 2016 supplemental transportation budget to make improvements on the stretch of the highway between I-5 and SR 520. And recently, the state Transportation Commission decided to make the highway toll-free on nights and weekends. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is conducting a survey so, if you want to let WSDOT know what you think about the I-405 tolling, take their survey here. Of course, you're always encouraged to contact me with your thoughts on the tolling, too.
Now that session has adjourned, I'm happy to be back home and enjoying all our communities have to offer. The Legislature isn't set to convene again until January 2017, so that gives me nearly nine months to meet with folks back home. If you have questions, want to share your concerns or have ideas for how to improve our state, I encourage you to contact my office. My legislative assistant, Kate, stands ready to assist you.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you!