Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for the honor of representing the 47th District again this year. It was an exceptionally long session for the Legislature, but the result was a bipartisan, balanced budget I think you will generally approve of. As you know, the 2013 legislative session was scheduled to last 105 days, but instead lasted 153 days with two special sessions. Like you, I was disappointed that a stalemate over tax increases kept us in Olympia far longer than was necessary, particularly considering state tax collections are up $2 billion from the 2011-13 budget cycle. We had roughly 7 percent more of your paycheck and more than enough to fund K-12 education and our critical services.
Below is a brief update on the final budgets – transportation, capital and state operating. I added some brief highlights I thought would be of interest to you. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and comments.
Just a reminder: In between my work at Boeing, I always make myself available for in-person meetings with constituents and legislative updates at local civic group and chamber events. Please contact my office if you would like to meet or need a speaker at an event and we'll work out a date that works best for everyone.
I hope everyone is enjoying the great summer weather. Again, thank you for allowing me to serve you.
The state operating budget
While the budget negotiations were slow and sometimes difficult, the end result is something that is good for all Washingtonians. All of us can find something to dislike in such a large budget, but the final agreement was a true compromise.
I was proud to see our House Republican budget lead, Rep. Gary Alexander, and our House Republican Leader, Rep. Dan Kristiansen, in mediator positions between the House Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition. I believe that if they had not filled that role, we might still be at a budget impasse. We were able to fund education as a first priority, instead of holding education hostage for roughly $1.3 billion in new and higher taxes, as was originally proposed by the House majority party and the governor. I always believed we should fund education first – thereby requiring any new tax proposals from the majority party to go toward programs with the very least importance. Here are a few reasons I voted “yes” on the budget:
- It spends $1.03 billion more on targeted K-12 education funding than the last budget. This additional funding addresses supplies and operating costs, reduced class sizes in grades K-1, the expansion of all-day kindergarten, teacher and principal evaluations and training, bilingual education, pupil transportation and a bill to improve student outcomes and support teachers. This is a good down payment that shows the Legislature is finally taking its duty to students, parents and teachers seriously.
- For the first time in nearly three decades, the budget passed includes funding for our state public institutions of higher learning, so that tuition will not be increased this year. I think parents and students will appreciate the reprieve.
- It spends less than the state is expected to bring in: $33.49 billion spent in the budget with $33.54 billion in taxes collected.
- It does not include the extension of the sales tax or business and occupation tax increases that would only serve to dampen what feels like a slow economic recovery. A promise was made by the Legislature that these taxes, including the bottled water tax, among others, would end this year. This budget keeps that promise. It was a good step to begin to rebuild trust with citizens still struggling in this fragile economy.
- It leaves $630 million in reserves for next year's supplemental budget as a buffer for an unforeseen economic downturn.
As I mentioned, there are things we can all find that we may not support in a budget as large as ours. But after so much hard work and compromise, I believe we struck a responsible and sustainable balance that supports our schools, services for the most vulnerable and public safety.
Capital budget projects in the 47th District
The state capital budget is the budget that funds “brick and mortar” projects in communities around the state. These projects improve our infrastructure, repair our schools and make much-needed investments in parks and recreation, all of which has a positive impact on economic development. Here are just a few projects in our district that were funded in the capital budget:
- $2.1 million for Covington Community Park Phase 2
- $2.65 million for Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation – Phoenix Rising
- $750,000 for the Kent Interurban Trail Connector
- $250,000 for the Dynamic Aquatic and Autism Center
- $4 million for Tahoma School District
- $29.5 million for repairs and various projects at Green River Community College
These community investments not only create more vibrant and supportive communities, they also create jobs for our local residents. If you need more information on the capital budget, please contact my office.
Much of the news at the end of the second special session was related to the 12-year, $10 billion transportation tax package proposed by House Democrats that did not pass. I should clarify that we had already passed a transportation budget, separate from this tax package, that spends $8.8 billion to complete projects already underway, and spends $300 million more than the 2011-13 transportation budget.
I do recognize the importance of completing some important transportation projects in our area, including the completion of State Route 167 and Highway 509 to connect our ports to our highways. However, I could not ask my constituents to pay over 10 cents more per gallon at the pump, and various other taxes and fees that the tax package called for, when those dollars would not be spent wisely.
A recent study shows that Washington state transportation projects are 1.5 to 2 times more expensive than similar projects in other states, which is unsustainable. We must address the cost drivers in the system to ensure we are getting the most out of every dollar. I supported several measures, and even sponsored one, that would have improved transparency in the transportation budget and addressed some of the issues we have encountered that significantly increase the cost of projects in our state. Unfortunately, most of the proposals made very little headway this session. My hope is they will be at the forefront as our transportation discussions proceed next session.