Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature is now in a special session since agreements could not be reached on a number of items, the biggest being the state operating budget. The disagreement really comes down to taxes. Republicans believe the 9 percent increase (more than $3 billion) in revenue available for this budget cycle is enough to balance the budget – investing in education per the McCleary decision, fund mental health and other critical programs, and keep our communities safe. Democrats and the governor do not believe the additional $3 billion is enough and have proposed raising $1.5 billion in taxes this biennium and $2.4 billion over the next biennium. Click on the graph below for a closer look at the breakdown.
As mentioned, one of the biggest sticking points seems to be tax increases. I recently had the opportunity to appear on TVW's Inside Olympia with Democrat Rep. Reuven Carlyle. We debated and discussed Washington state's tax structure, raising taxes and what taxes would be good or bad in Washington's tax structure. Click my photo to watch the debate.
I am disappointed some local teachers' unions around the state have decided to hold one-day strikes to protest against the Legislature, specifically education funding issues. However, it is important everyone knows what the facts are behind these one-day strikes. The Washington Education Association (WEA), the state's largest teachers' union, has been running radio ads making false claims about the Senate education funding proposal. I think it is important to clarify some of their misinformation since the Senate budget plan seems to be the focus of the strikes.
- WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to “shortchange” pay and benefits for teachers and school staff.
- FACT: The Senate operating budget would bring teacher COLAs to voter-approved levels.
- WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to increase class sizes – even for kids in high-poverty schools.
- FACT: The bipartisan Senate capital budget would build 2,100 more classrooms to reduce K-3 class sizes.
- WEA's claim: The Senate Republicans are likely getting an 11 percent pay increase.
- FACT: The Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials determines lawmaker salaries and raises, NOT the Legislature. The citizens of Washington used the initiative process to create this commission and the Legislature has ZERO input into the process.
It is worth noting that the Senate budget proposal this year gives K-12 the biggest share of spending seen in 30 years. They propose spending $2.7 billion more for K-12 than was spent two years ago. That is about an 18 percent increase.
While we won't know what education funding will look like until a final operating budget is passed, both parties and chambers seem committed to making a large investment in education and at a high enough level that certainly doesn't warrant a strike by teachers.
Royal Slope bill to be signed into law
My legislation that would transfer the Royal Slope railroad from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to the Port of Royal Slope is expected to be signed by the governor in the near future.
House Bill 1586 could increase business and create jobs in Royal City, and once again be instrumental in moving agriculture products from Royal to Othello.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments about any legislation before us during the special session. I hope to update you soon on final operating, capital and transportation budgets as well as any transportation plan that may be negotiated during the special session.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent the 13th Legislative District.