Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature has adjourned for the year. This email will give you a brief update on the operating budget, and some of our successes, as well as some of the disappointments. Despite the special session, I am pleased with many of the accomplishments.
Supplemental operating budget
House Republicans went into the session with some goals for a supplemental budget year. Only use the rainy day fund for emergency spending, be able to balance the budget using the four-year state budget outlook, and pass a supplemental budget without new or increased taxes. We accomplished these goals, despite House Democrats once again proposing tax increases and wanting to ignore the four-year budget outlook.
Unfortunately, I voted against this year's supplemental spending plan. I am concerned with the low-funding level in the budget of the integrate health system for Clark County. I am also worried about potential economic uncertainty given a slight decline in our last revenue forecast.
Also, the governor recently vetoed sections of the budget, which now puts the budget out of balance over the next four years.
Strengthening our economy
Those who know me, know I have a passion for business issues and my goal in Olympia is to find ways of improving the business climate in Washington. The Reflector recently published a column on some of my work this session: Rep. Vick not joking around in aiding business.
Every rule and regulation we can streamline or remove gives small businesses another reason to keep their doors open and operating in Washington. The governor signed three of my business-related bills into law this session.
- House Bill 2565 changes the frequency local sales and use taxes may be changed from four times a year to three, saving time and money for employers.
- House Bill 2433 levels the playing field for certified public accountants (CPA's) in Washington by allowing them to do business in other states. They will now operate under the same rules and guidelines out-of-state CPA's do in our state.
- House Bill 2584 removes from public disclosure security plans, delivery and travel routes, and personal financial information of marijuana producers, processers, and retailers. This will maintain transparency in the industry without putting business owners and employees in danger.
These bills are a step in the right direction, but a lot of work remains. If you look at the unemployment rates by county, many are struggling. Clark County is holding steady at 6.3 percent, but 14 counties have an unemployment rate of more than 8.2 percent, while King and Snohomish counties have unemployment rates of 4.7 and 5.2 percent.
We need to preserve the jobs we have and strengthen our business climate across the entire state, not just in the Puget Sound region. We want an economy that encourages employers to hire, invest and grow. When businesses are successful, communities are stronger, people are working and revenue is generated to pay for quality schools, public safety and other important needs. Unfortunately, in recent sessions the governor has proposed new taxes and rules and regulations which go the opposite direction.
Governor vetoes 27 bills
During the last week of this year's regular session, the governor threatened to veto legislation unless we reached a budget agreement by the March 10 adjournment date. When an agreement was not reached, he vetoed 27 bills that had broad, bipartisan support. He vetoed legislation that would have:
- removed obstacles for higher education students with disabilities;
- assisted the state Apple Commission to help promote the apple industry;
- promoted economic development;
- created jobs by authorizing the growing of industrial hemp;
- reduced the costs of prescription drugs; and
- increased the availability of affordable housing.
His actions were unnecessary. They did not help budget negotiations and he should have taken a more proactive approach. In a historic act, lawmakers decided to overturn all 27 vetoes on the last day of the special session. The veto overrides required a two-thirds vote of those present in the House and Senate. The last time a veto was overridden was 1998.
This year, despite the extra 20 days to reach an agreement on our supplemental spending plan, there were several accomplishments. For example, state lawmakers:
- Created a framework for K-12 education funding solutions;
- Saved public charter schools;
- Took steps to address the teacher shortage;
- Prioritized vision screening for students;
- Held the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) secretary accountable;
- Provided the Washington State Patrol with pay raises;
- Passed the Washington Cybercrime Act; and
- Created the Parent to Parent Program that connects parents of individuals with developmental disabilities with support and resources.
Right to Try
This year, I introduced legislation late in the session deemed “Right to Try.” It would allow terminally-ill patients access to experimental treatments and investigational medical products. An agreement would be required between the patient, physician and manufacturer. People should not have to get government approval to save their own lives, and should be able to decide what potentially life-saving treatments may benefit them, and what they would be willing to try. Because I introduced the bill late in the session, I was unable to get it through the legislative process before we adjourned. I intend to introduce it again next year.
I want to keep you updated on what is happening in Olympia and surrounding our state government. However, this is an election year. There are limits to what and when I can email and mail you. We are approaching deadlines that will prohibit me from emailing or mailing you directly until just before the 2017 session. However, I can respond to a direct request for information, so I encourage you to call, write or email if you have any questions or concerns about legislative or state issues.
I look forward to seeing you in the 18th District this interim.