Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There are now five days left of the 105-day legislative session, and negotiations concerning the operating budget, the capital budget and a transportation package are still ongoing. Unfortunately, operating budget negotiations got off to a slow start last week, which doesn't bode well for us finishing our work on time. If an agreement on all three pieces isn't reached by April 26, a costly special session is likely.
In my last update, I provided a brief overview of the operating budget proposals put forth by the House Democrats and Senate Republicans. I mentioned the Senate Republicans' budget offered a better starting point because it would fully fund our obligations without raising taxes. It would close 12 tax exemptions, while using existing revenues and marijuana revenues as funding sources, resulting in a $37.8 billion budget.
The House Democrats' budget, on the other hand, would implement $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes to spend $38.9 billion. At a time when we have $3 billion in additional revenue for the 2015-17 biennium, tax increases should be off the table. We don't need to put any additional burdens on taxpayers in order to fully fund K-12 education, provide families with tuition relief, and protect our most vulnerable populations.
Here is a more in-depth breakdown of both budget proposals:
The latest on a transportation package
The House and Senate have both proposed a $15 billion transportation tax package this session. Last Tuesday, I voted 'no' on the package that came before us in the House Transportation Committee because it lacks strong reforms. There are certainly some good elements in the package, but unless we implement the necessary reforms to protect taxpayer dollars, I don't see the justification for adding numerous vehicle fee increases and hiking the state gas tax 11.7 cents.
As with the operating budget, an agreement between the two chambers on a package will need to be reached before April 26 to avoid going into a special session.
House Bill 1800 passes Senate
House Bill 1800 would require the filing of a termination petition when a child has been out of the home for 12 months. Parental rights are extremely important, but when it has become clear a child's birth parents have no interest in reunification with them, we need to do what we can to enable them to find a permanent, loving home more quickly. Shortening this time frame from 15 months to 12 months, as the bill does, would not only help expedite the process, but it would also potentially serve as a wake-up call for parents and relatives. Additionally, it would help foster parents that are caring for children, because they also suffer when this process is prolonged.
The bill is now in the concurrence stage, which means the House must agree with the minor amendments the Senate made to the bill. Once that happens, the bill will be sent to the governor for his signature.
In my latest video update, I discuss House Bill 1800, provide an overview of the transportation package that passed out of the House Transportation Committee last week, and provide my thoughts on whether or not I believe negotiations on an operating budget will be completed on time. Take a look!
I want to continue to hear from you regarding your thoughts and priorities for our state. Please don't hesitate to call or email me with any comments, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7918.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.