Brad Hawkins: Investing your tax dollars wisely
This year is a budget-development year. The constitution provides the Legislature 105 days in odd-numbered years like 2015 to develop operating, capital and transportation budgets. Each of the budgets covers a two-year period, beginning July 1, 2015 thru June 30, 2017. I want to explain the purpose of each of these budgets and my goals as your legislator.
The operating budget provides for the daily operating expenses of the state, including K-12 and higher education, health and human services and public safety. The good news is that our state is expected to bring in $3 billion more for the 2015-17 budget than it did in the 2013-15 budget because of our recovering economy.
A top priority this year is fully funding basic education as required by the 2012 Supreme Court case known as the McCleary decision. It is important that the budget balances within those revenues and doesn't ask families to pay more taxes. I'm also supporting funding to help with recovery efforts after the Carlton Complex Fire. I believe it's a priority of the state to help communities recover after natural disasters.
The capital budget is often called the “bricks and mortar” budget because it pays for public facilities, including the construction of schools, prisons and other state buildings. It also provides loans to local governments from what is called the Public Works Assistance Account. In the past, we've seen this fund “swept” into the operating budget. That practice not only erodes the public's trust in government, it removes essential funding mechanisms that have been very effective for local governments. As your state representative, I've also made requests for funding of public infrastructure impacted by the Carlton Complex Fire.
The transportation budget provides for the maintenance, preservation and operation of the state's highways, bridges and ferries. While most of what you've heard about in the news is related to a separate transportation gas tax package, there will also be a budget that funds maintenance and operations within current revenues. This budget is approved every two years and is separate from the gas tax proposal. I don't support the current gas tax proposal, but I have supported previous transportation budgets within existing revenues.
With less than a month remaining in the session, we will consider proposals from the majority parties in the House and Senate in the coming days. We can and should focus all our efforts on passing these budgets and completing the session on time, by April 26. Equally important is that we make wise, long-term decisions that efficiently invest your hard-earned tax dollars.
Rep. Brad Hawkins is serving his second term representing the 12th Legislative District, which includes Chelan, Douglas, and parts of Grant and Okanogan counties. He lives in East Wenatchee with his wife and two sons.
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