Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have less than two weeks left in the 2013 legislative session and work on the state budget is finally starting to come together. As I reported to you in my last e-newsletter, Gov. Jay Inslee's budget proposal included about $1.2 billion in new and increased taxes. This, despite his campaign promise that tax increases would not be needed. I guess in his mind, repealing tax incentives for employers to help them create jobs in our state and extending business and occupations (B&O) taxes set to expire this year, do not qualify as “tax increases.” I disagree. I asked you to participate with other citizens across the state in a quick survey question to see how you feel about this “tax increase” question. The graph on the right shows the results. Looks like folks can see through the governor's semantics and political “spin.”
Last week, the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition passed their budget out of the Senate. Here are some quick highlights:
- It's a true “bipartisan budget” with “yeas” and “nays” from both sides of the aisle
- Contains no new taxes
- Spends $1.5 billion more on education with about $1 billion of that being for the state Supreme Court McCleary decision
- Spends $300 million more for higher education and reduces tuitions costs for our parents and students
- Balances out for four years! (no more budget rollercoaster!)
While it's not exactly how we would write the state budget over here in the House, it is a good start toward reaching a compromise that allows us to finish our work on time. There are some fund transfers and other issues that trouble me, but overall, it's a much more balanced budget than what we saw from the governor. Click here to read what our House Republican budget leader, Rep. Gary Alexander, had to say on the Senate budget. Click here for more detailed information on the Senate budget.
In contrast to the no-new-taxes approach from the Senate, the House Democrats have decided to rely on about $1.22 billion in new taxes for their budget – despite the fact that we expect to take in $2 billion more in revenues over the next two-year budget cycle! As it currently stands, their budget has a “placeholder” for over $500 million in tax increases. That's right. As of this writing, we still don't know exactly what taxes will be raised. It's “To Be Determined.” Not a smart way to budget if you ask me.
Their budget also completely drains the state's “Rainy Day Account” and then leaves only about $300 million in reserves. With so many things happening on the national and international level, it doesn't take much to imagine a scenario where our state economy's fragile recovery hits a serious snag. It would be much smarter to leave the rainy day fund alone and to leave a little more money in reserves so that if a bump in the road does occur, legislators are not left scrambling with special sessions trying to rewrite the budget so that it balances.
At the end of the day, the House Democrat budget looks very partisan and nothing like the cooperative agreement we've seen from the Senate. It passed off the floor of the House Friday night without one House Republican vote. Contrast that with the Senate's bipartisan budget. Democrat and Republican Senators voting for the Senate budget represent 30 of the state's 49 legislative districts, 38 of the 39 counties (San Juan County), and over 4.2 million citizens!
Update on my bills
I'm very pleased that several of my bills have made it through the legislative process and now move to the governor for his signature:House Bill 1112 – requires the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify the peer-reviewed science, scientific literature, and other sources of information used before taking significant agency action related to certain agency programs. And House Bill 1113 implements the same standard for the Department of Ecology. To read more about what these bills would do, check out my press release here from earlier this session.
Also, House Bill 1192 – would make it easier for veterans who've been disabled in the line of duty, and who are living outside the state, to hunt and fish here in Washington. We're hoping for reciprocity from other states so that it would be less expensive for Washington's disabled veterans to hunt and fish in other states as well.
Getting all three of these bills through the legislative process and to the governor for his signature has been an extremely difficult yet rewarding adventure. I believe it shows that we can work in a bipartisan fashion when needed, especially when it doesn't violate our principles and beliefs. I've learned a great deal this session working with members on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of the Legislature…which hopefully continues to lay the framework for successful legislative endeavors in the future.
This session, the Legislature revised an old tradition for the first time in years. The Legislative Shootout is a friendly competition between the House and Senate members and staff. I was one of two captains for the House team. The event was sponsored by several outdoor sporting groups and took place at the Evergreen Gun Club in Rochester, about 15 minutes south of the state Capitol. We were scored shooting clay pigeons with the shotgun and target shooting with both pistol and rifle. Unfortunately, the Senate walked away with the individual and team champion award. But I'll be practicing for next year!
Last week was also Beef Day at the Capitol. The event is one of the highlights of the session for members and staff as the cattlemen and other groups barbecue some beef sandwiches for us outside. It's a nice break from the rigors of session. We had a good time with some good food. One of the Senators regularly puts out a video of the event. I thought it was a clever look behind the scenes. Click on the photo on the right to view this short, three minute video.
As we near the end of the session, I want to thank those of you who have contacted my office these last few months to express your thoughts, opinions and concerns. You are a very involved citizenry and I'm so proud to represent you. It's been great to see new and familiar faces throughout the year as you come over to visit or testify on legislation. But I can't wait to get back home to Northeast Washington!
Thanks again for the honor of serving you in Olympia.
427A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7908 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000