Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I wanted to give you an update as we head into the final week of the legislative session. We have been in Olympia for more than three months and one of our last jobs is to pass an operating budget. The Senate has shown us a bipartisan budget can be passed without increasing taxes but House Democrats are insisting on a budget that raises taxes by approximately $1.3 billion. I hope the Republicans in the Senate will stand firm and give Washington a no-new-taxes budget. Below is an update on the operating budget proposals as well as an update on the transportation budget and a new gas tax plan by House Democrats.
Operating budget proposals
A little over a week ago, House Democrats passed their proposed operating on a near party-line vote, 54-43. One Democrat voted no. I voted against the proposed budget for a number of reasons:
- The proposal decimates the “rainy day fund,” which I think is important to keep;
- It would raise taxes by $1.3 billion and increase spending by 10 percent;
- Tax increases would affect trucking, janitorial services, insurance, high-tech research and development, architects, prescription drugs and travel agent industries, along with many other service industries. It would extend taxes to all types of beer, and place a sales tax on bottled water (the same tax voters repealed by initiative in 2010);
- The proposed tax increases would make it harder for our job creators, particularly our small-business owners, to hire and create jobs; and
Gov. Inslee's proposed budget outline is very similar to the House Democrat plan – more taxes and increased spending.
Below is a chart showing the differences between the House Democrat, Gov. Inslee and Senate bipartisan spending plans:
Senate operating budget proposal
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus's operating budget proposal is not perfect, but it does represent many of our principles and priorities. It would not rely on tax increases and would spend $1.5 billion more on K-12 education for reforms and better student outcomes, $300 million more for higher education, and it balances the budget over four years. It does reflect true bipartisanship with a vote of 30-18. The Senators that voted for the budget represented 30 of the 49 legislative districts, 38 of the 39 counties and over 4.2 million citizens. Going into the final week I hope we can use the bipartisan work done in the Senate as a starting point. If the majority in the House is open to compromise, we should be able to reach a spending plan that will take care of our most vulnerable, keep our citizens safe, and live up to our “paramount duty” outlined in the state constitution and fund education, without raising taxes.
The House passed a transportation budget, House Bill 1864, last week by a vote of 68-28. I have concerns with the budget for many reasons. I feel we need to reform our transportation spending system before we dump more money into it. Unfortunately, few of those reforms have made it through the legislative process. Our caucus has also been pushing “fix it before you fund it” reforms that would provide taxpayer protections, accountability and oversight, and ensure we are getting the biggest bang for our transportation dollars. You can read more about the budget and amendments my colleagues offered by clicking House snubs GOP amendments, OKs transportation budget (The Olympia Report). It is vital we see reforms, but it is also essential for the 13th District that we continue to move forward with improvements on Snoqualmie Pass and funding for our railways.
Last Friday, the Democrat majority unveiled a new gas tax plan and held a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee last Friday. The funding plan would include a new 10-cent gas tax increase proposal, increased fees on title transfers and registrations, and increased gross weight fee for commercial truckers. How can we build public trust when our taxpayers are being asked to pay more yet we are not addressing the huge, costly mistakes being made on mega projects and ferry construction, or the lack of confidence in our transportation department? The majority has indicated they will move some reform bills, and a couple have been voted out of the House, but what are we waiting for? Reforms should be first, not asking the taxpayers to pay more.
Bills of interest
My first bill is scheduled to be signed by the governor on Thursday. House Bill 1396 is a good pro-jobs bill that changes the unemployment insurance shared work program. It is good for both employees and employers because it provides shared work benefits for employees, but the benefits are not charged to employers for a three-year period. The shared-work program is a popular and agreed-upon program and that is tied to the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Creation Act of 2012. For the first time, reimbursable employers can participate because of the federal funding.
The TV reception district bill, House Bill 1068, I have been working on all session is still going to require a little work in the final week. The Senate has amended the bill allowing employees of a district to assist the county treasurer in sending out tax notices to reduce the cost for the district. We will try to reach some agreement between the House and Senate versions over the next few days.
If you have any questions about the budgets, my legislation or anything else related to state government please do not hesitate to contact me.