Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 105-day regular session and follow-up special sessions, the Legislature has finally adjourned for the year. While I am disappointed it took so long to find an agreement on the operating budget, the final outcome is positive. The two political parties and legislative chambers came together in a bipartisan way to do the right thing for Washington students, teachers, employees and families.
Operating budget – Tax proposals dropped and priorities funded
The House passed the operating budget by a vote of 90 “yes” to 8 “no.” (I voted “yes.”) This is the largest vote margin for an operating budget since the 1980s. Despite proposals for large tax increases on businesses, capital gains, and carbon, these tax increases are not included in the final budget.
Education funding now accounts for 48 percent of the state budget – the largest portion dedicated to education in decades. The budget provides funding for K-3 class-size reduction and expansion of full-day kindergarten, as well as increased funding for additional materials, supplies and operating costs. School employees will also be receiving a cost of living adjustment. These investments truly help make education the paramount duty of our state.
In addition, the budget provides overdue funding for mental health, which is not only our moral obligation, but also helps address many public safety challenges. State employees will also receive cost of living adjustments in this budget. Also, for the first time in Washington's history, we're actually cutting tuition for college students. This will help thousands of families across our state to better afford a higher education.
Capital budget – investments for our communities
The Legislature also passed a bipartisan capital budget, which provides for infrastructure improvements in our state. (I voted “yes.”) The budget invests in many projects throughout our state and district based on a competitive process. It includes funding for additional school classroom space across our state. The 12th District legislative team worked diligently during this session to also include funding for infrastructure in communities affected by the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire. I am very thankful that the following capital projects have been approved:
- Pateros water system ($1.84 million)
- Brewster reservoir replacement ($1.25 million)
- Twisp Civic Center ($500,000)
Transportation tax package
Having an effective transportation system is critical to our state and local economy, but legislators need to demonstrate a responsible use of taxpayer funds when it comes to transportation spending.
The $16 billion transportation tax package the Legislature passed included additional vehicle weight fees (which you pay with your annual car tabs) and an approximate 12-cent per gallon gas-tax increase to bring total state and federal taxes to 68 cents per gallon. (I voted “no.”) Simply put, I think this is too much for drivers in rural areas who utilize heavier duty vehicles and travel long distances.
I believe lawmakers could have developed a smaller, more reasonable list of projects that would have worked better for taxpayers. Also, our district will pay much more than we will get in return with this new tax package. Based on an analysis developed with non-partisan research staff, our district will pay approximately $250 million in taxes and fees for $100 million in projects. In essence, this is roughly $2.50 paid for every $1 received.
Thoughts and prayers with Wenatchee
As I head back to the Wenatchee Valley for the rest of the year, I do so with a heavy heart for the downtown businesses impacted by the wildfire and the families in Broadview who have lost their homes. My thoughts and prayers have been with you. I want to extend my gratitude to our first responders who courageously battled the fire and the local leaders who have also put in long hours in response. I am confident we will be able to help rebuild as a community.
It's an honor to represent you in Olympia.
122G Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7832 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000