Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our Supplemental Operating and Transportation Budgets were in the spotlight this week as we head into waning days of this short session. As I have mentioned previously, this year is a supplemental budget year, meant for small adjustments and emergency expenditures. In this week's e-newsletter, I will update you on some of the major components to these budgets.
As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my update and stay informed on what's happening in your Legislature. I hope you take a moment to share your thoughts with me on the issues I covered in this update, and any other issues important to you, your family or your business.
Operating Budget Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…
Yesterday, HB 2376, the supplemental operating budget, was taken up by the House and passed on a straight party line vote of 50-47. This is quite a departure from last year's budget, which passed with the most bipartisan vote in recent history.
The Good – Earlier this session, I had a meeting with the Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard to discuss the letter I had written to Governor Inslee last year requesting that he allow our Guard members to protect themselves in the wake of the attacks on US military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, TN. Major General Bret Daugherty shared with me that there were now serious, credible threats against our recruiting centers here in Washington and was seeking support for additional funding to hire armed security guards, and to purchase soft body armor and portable ballistic panels for recruiting center windows. I offered an amendment to the operating budget to provide the necessary funding for these things. I am proud that my amendment was adopted and I will continue to work with the National Guard and the Senate to ensure this funding makes it into the final budget.
The Bad – Hundreds of charter school students, pictured right, came to Olympia yesterday to rally in support of their schools. I was disappointed to learn that no funding for charter schools was included in the House budget. My colleagues in the Republican caucus presented an amendment to the budget that would have set aside money in a designated account to fund the Washington Charter School Commission, but the amendment was rejected by majority Democrats. Rejecting this amendment leaves these 1300 students with more uncertainty about the future of their education. They deserve better.
The Ugly – We know from the last revenue forecast that our state economy is beginning to slow down. Other states are already experiencing recession-like economic activity. The House Democrat budget unnecessarily raids the Budget Stabilization Account (Rainy Day Fund) for non-emergency spending and relies on $119.5 million in tax increases that have been rejected in the past, such as adding a sales tax on bottled water, and repealing the nonresident sales and use tax exemption, which has been proposed seven times since 2011. Worse yet, it contains a budget gimmick to exclude projected expenditures for the remaining McCleary phase-in steps in 2017-19 for K-3 class size reductions. House Democrats can't reconcile their budget with the four-year balanced budget outlook requirement without this gimmick.
There were a host of great amendments offered up by Republicans:
- Backfill higher education dollars lost from our historic tuition reduction plan;
- Help reduce the cost of college by allowing open source textbooks;
- Direct funding to career and technical education (CTE's) from the McCleary penalty fund;
- Require agencies with rulemaking authority to delay the effect of new rules until the Legislature can review them.
Sadly, all of these amendments were solidly voted down on party line votes. My priorities have never swayed. These amendments would have continued our commitment to prioritizing education funding – on many levels – and would have created much needed oversight of bureaucratic agencies. A supplemental operating budget should not be used to grow the size and scope of state government. The House Democrat budget would drain our Rainy Day account the day before it rains. Instead, I believe we should be prudent so that critical state services aren't put at risk in the future.
How a supplemental budget should be done…
HB 2524, the supplemental transportation budget, passed the House with a vote of 84-13 on Thursday evening. True to being a supplemental budget, the Transportation budget was just that. And because it was “just supplemental', with minor changes – much of it just reappropriations — it passed in a bi-partisan fashion and I was pleased to support it. It contains additional funding to complete critical infrastructure projects, addresses the recruitment and retention issue we are currently facing in the Washington State Patrol, and increases our capacity to process enhanced drivers' licenses and identicards to comply with the Federal REAL ID Act.
Introducing Vancouver teen, Alyssa Peterson!
This week I sponsored Cedar Tree Christian School student, Alyssa Peterson, to participate in the House Page Program. Alyssa spent the week in Olympia attending Page School and working with legislators on the House floor, delivering messages and helping to conduct legislative business with other high school students from all over the state. She did an outstanding job and represented the 17th District well!
If you know a student between the ages of 14-16 who is interested in serving as a Page, please encourage them to submit an application for next year's 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