Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Sunday, April 28, the Legislature adjourned the regular 105-day legislative session. Unfortunately, we will once again be forced into a special session due to the lack of an agreement on a state operating budget. Budget negotiators will remain in Olympia to work on finding a middle ground on spending and the Legislature will reconvene May 13 for a 30-day special session.
Despite the Legislature not being completely finished with the budgets, I invite you to join my telephone town hall May 8 to receive the latest information and ask questions. Details are below.
Telephone town hall May 8
Please mark your calendar to participate in the 47th District telephone town hall event Wednesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. You can call in toll-free 1-800-761-6258. To ask a question, you can press the star (*) key on your telephone.
On the call, I will give you a brief update on the Legislature. Then, I will take your questions and listen to your comments. Listeners will also have the opportunity to take part in instant polls. The call lasts one hour. I hope you can join the conversation.
As I mentioned above, the special session will begin May 13 and could last as long as 30 days. The plan for now is to have only the necessary budget negotiators in Olympia to hammer out a deal, and then bring the entire Legislature back to vote. This will save taxpayers quite a bit of money – having every legislator in town while negotiators are working to craft a plan would only waste money. I remain hopeful that between now and May 13, we can find a budget compromise that properly addresses education funding and spends within our means.
I know we can balance the budget without new and higher taxes. My caucus put forward an education budget proposal that included $900 million more for K-12 education, and the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition Caucus put forward a budget that allocated $1 billion more to K-12 education. Both proposals fund education and the state's other priorities within expected tax collections, which are projected to grow by $2 billion – that's $2 billion more to spend in the 2013-15 budget!
The House Democrats' and the governor's budget plans ask for nearly $900 million to $1.2 billion in new and higher taxes to pay for education. I firmly believe that with a current revenue increase of nearly 7 percent, we should be able to get the job done without raising taxes.
New, higher taxes are not needed and will hurt economy
Despite the expected growth in tax collections, House Democrats passed a $879 million tax package by a vote of 50-47 on April 24 under the guise of increasing taxes to pay for education. The taxes passed were billed as “tax loopholes” and “only affecting big businesses and corporations.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the taxes passed by the House will hit struggling Washingtonians hard, fall largely on small and independently-owned businesses and will hurt job growth. The bulk of the testimony in committee was against the tax bill, House Bill 2038. Here is a sample of the testimony on different parts of the bill heard in the House Finance Committee April 23:
Small-business owner: “This may not sound like a lot, but it is. It is the difference between employee raises, bonuses and actually hiring future employees.”
United Transportation Union and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen: “These provisions would have an enormous negative impact and cost a large number of good, high-paying jobs, middle class jobs on our port terminals and railroads…If these taxes are imposed, the trade and jobs will be lost when the shipments easily move to Mexico, Canada or other states. And it will place Washington at a competitive disadvantage.”
Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce: “This will not net gain revenue. We believe the revenue source will dry up as Oregon stays home. And the unintended consequence is that 15 of our businesses I have listed here are asking you to pull this out and not approve this portion of the bill.”
People are struggling to find work, have taken pay cuts to keep their jobs or are on the brink due to underemployment. These taxes will hit the most vulnerable citizens the hardest!
Long before I was elected to office, I always hated it when we were told we needed to raise taxes or we would lose teachers, police and firefighters. Just as in any household budget, we should fund our priorities first and then decide if we need revenue for other purposes. I would argue that since the House Democrats propose tax increases to fund education, everything else is already funded in their budget, and education is being funded last by the proposed tax increase. This does not line up with our state constitution or the values of Washingtonians.
I believe that if the budget negotiators keep in mind that we need to fund our priorities first and live within our means, we will come to a compromise budget that will work for Washington State.
Status of my legislation
House Bill 1877 is a government accountability measure that would change the governing structure of Sound Transit to allow voters to directly select who serves on the board. Presently, Sound Transit board members are appointed to represent the ridership areas. This bill is important because it would allow voters to choose who represents them on the board. If they feel like they are not well represented, they could put someone else in his or her place.
While this bill had bipartisan support in the House, it did not make any progress this year. I will continue to work on this issue over the interim and during the next legislative session.
The Washington Policy Center wrote an article on my proposal, which you can read here.
House Bill 1304, which would allow private schools to also offer online schools, was an idea brought to me by a constituent to allow another option for our children to receive a quality education in Washington State. While my House bill did not make it through the system, fortunately I had also worked with Senator John Braun to initiate an identical bill, Senate Bill 5496, which passed and is awaiting the governor's signature!
Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center praised the bill in her blog here.
Please always feel free to call me with questions, concerns or if I can be of assistance to you.