Last Friday the Legislature adjourned “sine die” – a Latin term reserved for use on the final day of a legislative session. I cannot stress how historic the 2015 session has been for our state. The new budget we approved to fund the next two years of state services and programs is a document to be proud of, as it reinvests in the real priorities of state government. Our Senate majority instituted the first college tuition reduction in state history, helping over 300,000 students. The budget also puts over $1 billion into basic education and gives our educators a long overdue cost-of-living adjustment. Support for K-12 education now comprises 47 percent of the state’s budget. Since our Majority Coalition began governing in the senate, per-pupil education funding has increased by $2,300 to a record $9,000. The Legislature also adopted critical investments by passing a new capital budget that brings over $35 million to our district.
I will have more to say about the session in the coming days. As always, if you have any questions please contact me. Have a great summer.
Good News: We ended the regular legislative session on time.
Not So Good News: The House did not want to discuss the Senate budgets; therefore, we are now in a special session.
The bottom line is that the Senate and House have not agreed on several key issues pertaining to the general operating budget and the transportation budget. Both chambers want to support the McCleary decision, but the real sticking point is how that support is funded. We have been told by the state’s monetary experts that we should be receiving at least $3 billion in additional revenue this budget cycle. We think that income plus several other efficiencies recommended by the Senate will more than fund McCleary and our other high value programs. The House does not agree, and instead is proposing a $1.5 billion tax increase.
The Senate budget increases funding for K-12 public schools by over $2.7 billion, the largest dollar increase in history and the largest percentage increase in 25 years. In addition, the Senate budget proposes to reduce college tuition by 25% at our 4-year institutions.
The Senate budget represents the taxpayers’ interests will. As previously mentioned, we are anticipating an additional $3 billion in revenue and believe that we do not need to raise taxes. The Governor disagreed. Instead, he proposed the largest tax increase in state history — $1.5 billion. This includes a carbon tax that would affect every family in the state, and a capital gains tax that would make Washington the only non-income tax state to have one. I do not agree with the Governor.
Here are a few highlights of the Senate budget that I feel are very important to understand:
- As mentioned before, it significantly increases education spending.
- It provides for the most vulnerable citizens.
- It protects our senior citizens.
- It leaves the largest reserve in history
- It is sustainable and balanced
- It can be measured and adjusted along the way
- It has provisions that require new programs to “sunset” and be subject to performance audit reviews, so that programs that aren’t fulfilling their purpose don’t continue indefinitely.
- It provides lower and middle income tax relief for students desiring to attend college.
- AND….THIS BUDGET DOES NOT RAISE TAXES!!
Let me know your thoughts. Help me to serve you better.
The Senate Transportation Committee has a new transportation package nearing completion. It has some good solutions that bring transparency, accountability, more efficiency, and overall better use of your tax dollars. On the flip-side, this proposed transportation package also includes a gas tax, which is why I’m asking you to participate in a survey. I want to know your thoughts and opinions regarding a package that to some appear to be double-edged. Some components are clearly beneficial, and others may be subject to question, specifically why we need to implement a new gas tax or would this tax be beneficial if certain reforms are put in place. The breakdown for the proposed gas tax increase would be 5 cents in 2016, 4.2 cents in 2017, and 2.5 cents in 2018. The proposal is not locked in yet – there is still some negotiating to take place, specifically the apparent low amount of dedicated transportation dollars for districts 10 and 39.
The money that has been raised by previous gas tax hikes is in fact being used in its entirety. In the past transportation package, the taxes raised have gone to projects that were fast-tracked and bonded based on future revenue. We did this in order to lock in a set interest rate and to start projects promptly. Legislators are looking to do the same thing again in this new proposed package.
Please take a moment to take our brief survey. I look forward to your feedback.