Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for allowing me to serve as a member of your 47th District legislative team. It's a pleasure to serve you.
We are more than halfway through the 2012 legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn on March 8. Up to this point, the majority party has not offered any solutions to solve the $1.5 billion spending gap. Instead, we have seen bill after bill that is unrelated to getting our fiscal house in order debated and passed on the House floor. Every day we wait to balance the budget we spend tens of thousands of dollars more than we'll have to correct in the new budget. It's past time to get serious about balancing the books so we can create a sustainable budget for now and into the future. As a member of the minority party, our caucus has concentrated on a Priorities of Government, or POG, process for budgeting an “all priorities” spending plan within current tax collections. You may recall that former Democrat Gov. Gary Locke used the POG process to balance the budget in 2003-04.
As we work to finish our job on time, I would welcome your feedback on the issue of importance to you. Below is a brief update and information on my town hall meeting on Feb. 18. I hope you find it informative.
Town hall meeting Feb. 18
Sen. Joe Fain, Rep. Pat Sullivan and I are hosting an in-person town hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Cutter's Point Coffee in Covington. The meeting will begin at 11 a.m. and run through 12:30 p.m., however I'll stick around as time allows and as it is not disruptive to the business. The goal of the town hall gathering is to listen to issues impacting residents of the 47th District and offer an update on the status of the 2012 legislative session. The address and details of the town hall meeting are as follows:
Saturday, Feb. 18
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Cutter's Point Coffee (next to Fred Meyer)
16739 SE 272nd Street
Residents who are unable to attend the meeting, but have questions or solutions regarding state issues, can contact their legislators via the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or via their individual office numbers and e-mail addresses as follows:
Fund Education First proposal
Since 2006, House Republicans have introduced legislation that would require state budget writers to fund education first and require the governor sign the spending plan before any other appropriations to state agencies and programs are made. This year, we introduced House Bill 2533, which would do just that – Fund Education First. You can read about the history and facts on the House Republican's Fund Education First legislation here.
Our Fund Education First legislation received a public hearing on Jan. 31 in the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee. The bill not only has bipartisan sponsorship, but received broad support from education advocacy groups that represent teachers, principals, superintendents and classified school staff statewide. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction also weighed in as a supporter of the bill. Clearly, there is widespread recognition that the status quo budgeting process is not working for our schools.
Fund Education First is not a panacea, but it is a solid proposal to start the dialogue about prioritizing education in the state budget. We believe it is a concept whose time has come. In fact, the state Supreme Court ruling in the McCleary vs. State of Washington confirmed our stance on this issue – legislative budget writers are failing to live up to the state constitution's mandate to amply and uniformly fund the state's “paramount duty,” which is the education of all children within our state's borders.
You can read my statement on this proposal here and my column on the importance of the legislation here. You can listen to the testimony of the House Republican education leader and prime sponsor, Rep. Bruce Dammeier, on our Fund Education First legislation here.
House Republicans roll out Fund Education First budget:
House Republicans introduced our K-12 education budget proposal in a news conference at the Cap
itol last week. The education-only budget bill is House Bill 2770, and follows up on our Fund Education First legislation, House Bill 2533 discussed above.
After minimal progress in a special session last December and no action after four weeks of the regular session, House Republicans decided to take the lead in creating a sustainable “all priorities” budget that puts our kids first. House Bill 2770 stands in stark contrast to Gov. Gregoire's proposed supplemental operating budget. She has recommended cutting K-12 education funding by $630.1 million and buying some of these cuts back through a three-year, 0.5 percent increase in the state sales tax rate. House Republicans would allocate $13.66 billion to K-12 education – representing only a $45.9 million, or 0.3 percent, reduction from the education portion of the current operating budget, without increasing taxes.
The governor's proposed budget would cut four days from the school year and would reduce levy equalization by $152 million. The House Republican education budget funds the entire 180-day school year and maintains funding in the following areas:
- Levy equalization: $600 million
- Full-Day Kindergarten: $5.02 million
- K-3 Class Size in High-Poverty Schools: $33.59 million
- Transportation: $5 million
- School District Hold Harmless Costs: $21.32 million
This is the kind of leadership our state needs. There will be those who say that crafting a separate budget cannot be done, but we know it can be done. In fact, our state already has three separate budgets: the operating, capital and transportation budgets. The blueprint to create a stand-alone education budget is already in place. All we need now is for the majority party to join us as we take the lead to ensure our children get the first budget dollar, not the last dime.
I would welcome your thoughts and feedback on this proposal.