Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The first special session of the 2015 legislature concluded last week without an agreement on the 2015-17 operating budget. The governor called for a second special session to begin immediately and this week he has hosted House and Senate budget leaders in his office for budget talks. Though I am disappointed to report the stalemate continues, I would like to update you on where we stand in the process.
In an effort to finalize the budget, Senate Republicans made considerable compromises and publicly released an offer based on the latest economic revenue forecast. This forecast projected an additional $400 million in revenue over the next two years, meaning the state will take in $3.2 billion dollars more for the 2015-17 biennium than the previous biennium. The offer made by the Senate meets our funding obligations, including fully funding basic education, spends within existing revenue, and does not raise taxes. This should have been the compromise that finally got our work done and sent legislators home for the year.
You may be asking: Why is the Legislature in a second special session if the Senate was willing to compromise and we have good economic news? Simply put, we have not passed a budget because House Democrats continue to insist on new taxes, including a $550 million capital gains income tax. Gov. Inslee has backpedaled from his own tax-increase proposals given the 9.2 percent increase in revenue collections and The Columbian and The Seattle Times have opined tax increases should be off the table.
At the heart of this debate is a difference in the budget-writing philosophy of Senate Republicans and House Democrats. On one hand, the Senate wrote a budget based on what tax payers are realistically able to provide, by taking existing revenue and prioritizing spending. On the other hand, the House first looked at what they wanted to fund and then tried to find the dollars to do that – which is why they still insist on raising taxes by more than half a billion dollars. Complicating negotiations further is the Democrats unwillingness to vote on their own tax package. It’s time for the political theater to end. It’s time to pass a budget that is reasonable, responsible, and respectful of taxpayers. It’s time to get our work done and get out of town so our citizens and school districts can get on with their lives with the dependability and predictability they deserve from state government.
I hope you take time to share your questions, comments, and concerns with me. I will continue to keep your thoughts in mind as I work for a swift end to this unnecessary special session.
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