Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned its first special session Thursday and the governor has called another special session. While I am disappointed the majority parties in the House and Senate failed to come to an agreement on a sustainable budget, I hope productive budget negotiations continue, resulting in a responsible resolution soon. House Republicans met again on Tuesday to discuss the special session and the work that still needs to be accomplished before the Legislature can adjourn.
At the center of budget disagreements is tax increases. A handful of Democrats made imprudent promises back in January and insist on unnecessary tax increases, even though our state is expected to have nearly $3.2 billion more in revenue for the next budget cycle — a more than 9 percent increase. Why are Democrats talking major tax increases when the average Washington family has watched their income remain flat while the economy recovers? Even our governor believes tax increases are unnecessary given the additional revenue. With 9 percent more revenue than our last budget cycle, the Legislature should have the extra fuel it needs to pass a fiscally responsible budget without raising taxes.
As negotiations continue, I encourage you to contact me with questions, suggestions and concerns you may have. You can do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling my district office at (360) 723-0704.
The final days of the first special session
While lawmakers were in Olympia last week, the House passed a number of important bills, including a bill to improve the timeliness of competency evaluations of mentally ill individuals and a school testing reform bill that maintains academic rigor while rolling back some unnecessary tests. The Legislature also passed the 2015-17 transportation budget, which funds the repair and replacement of deficient bridges, collective bargaining agreements for State Patrol, and other important projects. The budget is different from a revenue package as it uses funds already raised. It now moves on to the governor's desk for his signature.
Education town halls in review
Sen. Ann Rivers and I hosted two education-focused town hall events Saturday, May 23. In light of teacher walkouts happening around the state and K-12 education funding discussions taking place in Olympia, we thought these would be a great opportunity for us to hear directly from constituents as the state seeks to make a significant investment in students and teachers this year.
Both events in Camas and Battle Ground were well attended, and I appreciate everyone who came out on Saturday to meet with us. It is encouraging to see so many in our communities passionate about the future of educating our youth.
Both the House and Senate budget proposals make historic investments in our students and educators. Ensuring students are provided the environment they need to succeed and teachers are given the recognition and compensation they deserve are our top priorities as legislators work toward a budget solution. Here are some specifics on what is currently being considered by both chambers with regard to K-12 education:
- Both budget proposals increase K-12 education funding by nearly 18 percent.
- $1.28 billion to $1.33 billion to address McCleary:
- $350 million to $412 million for K-3 class size reductions.
- $180 million to $188 million for all-day kindergarten.
- $741 million for maintenance, supplies and operating costs.
- $232 million to $385 million for K-12 employee COLAs.
- $200 million for K-12 health benefits.
If you were unable to attend the meetings and have any questions or suggestions to pass along, feel free to contact me using the information below.