Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There was a very quiet “Sine Die” at noon on Sunday, April 23. Normally, Sine Die marks the end of the legislative session. Although more than 300 bills made it through the legislative process, the Legislature was unable to come to an agreement on the state's 2017-19 operating budget and the bills necessary to implement it. The Governor has called a 30-day special session in order to extend the amount of time lawmakers have to come to an agreement.
If you're frustrated by this outcome, you are not alone. Special sessions seem to be common place in Olympia in recent years. During the next few weeks, members from each caucus and the Governor's office will meet regularly to negotiate the final operating budget. While we are coming closer to an agreement, the debate continues over the best way to fund basic education. Leaders from both chambers are working together to find the right solution.
What's the hold up?
Here's the short explanation. While the overall plans proposed by Senate Republicans and House Democrats are similar in some aspects, the way the two plans collect, and spend, revenue are very different. The House Democrats plan depends on $8 billion in new taxes over the next four years, including a 20 percent increase in B&O taxes, and a new capital gains income tax. Even with an additional $3 billion coming in this budget cycle, the only way for Democrats to pay for their proposed budget is through new taxes. We do not need any more taxes.
What we need to do is budget responsibly, live within our means, and build a plan that prioritizes education and meets the needs of our state. This is exactly what the Senate Republican's budget proposal does. Over the next few weeks leaders from both chambers will be working hard to find common ground. The first step will be to produce a solution for education funding, which will clear the way to negotiate the rest of the budget. I am hopeful this budget negotiation will end with a priority-based balanced budget.
The Good News
There were several highlights during this session. Legislation was passed that will increase government accountability, help small businesses, support our veterans, and fund projects in our local community. These are notable and important successes for our citizens.
Transportation amendment for corridor between Washington and Oregon
While it's disappointing the Legislature is in yet another special session, the 2017-19 transportation budget is another component that did pass. During floor debate, I offered an amendment to help spark discussion about the possibility of an additional bridge, or new passage, between southwest Washington and Oregon. Although it did not pass, my proposal would have provided funding for the Joint Transportation Committee to hire consultants to evaluate available options west of I-5. This would include high-level conceptual designs for options, as well as cost estimates for construction. I sponsored this amendment because I believe it's critical we continue to expand the discussion on real traffic congestion relief for southwest Washington. Read more about amendment 526 here.
I work for you year-round
Although the regular session has ended, my work for you does not. I will be sending you updates throughout this 30-day special session and during the months leading up to the 2018 legislative session. I represent and work for you throughout the year. Please feel free to contact me with your concerns, comments or questions about state government. You'll find my contact information below.
Thank you for allowing me to be your voice in Olympia!