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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
When I took the oath of office in January, I fully expected to pass a budget on time. Unfortunately, the Legislature convened a special session today for the 10th time since 2010 after adjourning early last week. I joined my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus and introduced a resolution calling for special session to begin immediately. While I'm glad the governor called for special session to begin today, I believe we should have continued to work through the entire 105-day regular session, knuckled down, and finished what voters have asked us to do, which is balance and pass the budgets.
Special sessions can cost taxpayers nearly $20,000 per day, which is why I will forgo per diem (reimbursement for any housing, food, or travel costs) during any special session. While that is a campaign promise I made, I respect my colleagues who take per diem as they often make sacrifices, including traveling long distances, and unpaid leave from work, to serve in the Legislature. We must negotiate a final budget in short order so as to not prolong the special session and further increase costs to taxpayers.
As was the case last week, we still have the components to build a balanced, sustainable budget. Revenue is expected to increase by more than $3 billion for the 2015-17 biennium, meaning we have the resources to address basic education funding and critical services for our most vulnerable citizens without raising taxes. The House majority party, however, is insisting on $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes, including the creation of a capital gains income tax and a 20 percent increase in B&O taxes on about 164,000 small businesses such as child and elder care centers, and employment services. I believe it is time to find the political will to prioritize spending over special interests and politics, and pass the budget.
One of the most important considerations should be for our local school districts. Schools need to plan for the next school year and must have their budgets finalized in May. Uncertainty from the Legislature could lead to lay-off notices causing unnecessary distress for the recipients. We need to continue working to avoid this as I believe our students, parents, and teachers deserve better.
As special session gets underway, I hope you take time to share your questions, comments, and concerns with me. I will continue to keep your thoughts in mind as we move closer to adopting the 2015-17 budget and adjourning for the year.
It's an honor and a privilege to serve you as your state representative.
Yours in service,
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000