Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There is less than one week remaining for the 2013 regular session. At this point, the Legislature is only voting on bills that are necessary to implement the budget, budget bills themselves and bills that return for final agreement. For a quick reminder of how a bill becomes law click here.
The state budget
Budget negotiations have begun in earnest. For those of you who may not be aware, there are three budgets that the state uses to fund the myriad of things we pay for, which are: the operating budget, the capital budget and the transportation budget. To learn more about these three budgets visit the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) Web site. You can also see a breakdown of the percentage of each budget and what they fund in the graph to the right (for a larger view click on the graph).
To make things even more complicated, the Senate, House and governor all introduce their own spending plans. Each group has a version of the best way to fund the budgets. This year, the House and governor both proposed operating budgets that are drastically different from the budget released by the Senate. It is likely that extensive negotiations will have to be done in order to find compromise. here is a brief breakdown of the differences:
- The House Democrats and governor's operations budget raises taxes by $1.3 billion on already struggling families, depletes the “rainy day fund” and makes no reforms to address out-of-control spending.
- The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget balances spending within expected tax collections, which are projected to be up by $2 billion. Therefore, it creates no new or increased taxes while allocating more money to education and priorities like public safety.
While all of these budgets increase spending on education, which I am in favor of, increasing taxes is not needed to do that. Education shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip to force the public to accept new taxes. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus' initial budget represents many of the same principles and priorities that House Republicans have supported for years. I am hopeful the Senate budget will serve as a model for what is possible.
Tax bill gets a public hearing
As a member of the House Finance Committee, I heard testimony last Friday on House Bill 2038, which is Democrat-drafted legislation to raise taxes. This bill would raise taxes on employers by more than $1,000,000,000. Many small-business owners testified. I can fully understand their frustration and confusion when our state continues to try and make it harder and harder on employers when jobs are desperately needed.
Many people have been swayed by the Democrat party rhetoric of “closing tax loopholes” but there are no actual loopholes. Certain businesses were being taxed at regular rates – the state increased their rates and said that it was temporary. The majority party is using this terminology as an excuse for breaking their promise not to tax hardworking families. It is clear the tax plan will not impact large corporations. The taxes proposed in HB 2038 would be paid by small businesses: contractors, landscapers, realtors, barbers, janitors, truck drivers, warehouse workers, bus drivers, music teachers and others. This bill would undoubtedly eliminate thousands of jobs in Washington state. E-mail your Washington State Representative and demand a “NO” vote on HB 2038.
Construction and transportation budgets
The House has also been negotiating the capital and transportation budgets. The capital budget goes to fund construction/restoration of state buildings, public schools, colleges, public lands and other publically funded assets. The capital budget remains the final budget to receive a vote and is the most complicated of the three. There are some good projects that would positively impact the 18th District in the proposal, including:
- The Clark County Skills Center;
- Clark College Health and Advanced Technologies Building;
- road construction in Camas; and
- the Washougal Storm Water Decant Facility.
However, despite there being many important projects in our district it is critical that we don't reach further into taxpayers' pockets to fund these projects. It is also crucial we don't place debt on our children in order to fund projects now. Additionally, each of the budgets impact the others. Therefore, until all three budgets have passed both chambers, nothing is guaranteed. Additional projects were not able to be included in the budget at this time, but I will continue to support them and look for funding in the future.
On April 16, the House passed their transportation budget 68-28. I felt it was necessary to vote “no.” This transportation budget, also drafted by House Democrats, did not include enough reforms. Voting “no” sends a message to our colleagues in the Senate that change is needed. I hope the Senate will clean up the transportation budget so we can concur on a different plan. Previous transportation budgets built an off-ramp to Highway 16 in the wrong place, oversaw waste in Washington State Ferries and were responsible for serious problems with the 520 Bridge project. We cannot continue to spend as we have in the past without new efforts to ensure accountability and protection of taxpayers. I look forward to the supporting this budget if positive changes can be made.
Congratulations to our schools
I'd like to offer my congratulations to the schools in our district that have received the Washington Achievement Award. The award is based on the Washington Accountability Index and criteria in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It is given to elementary, middle, high and comprehensive schools in seven categories: overall excellence, language arts, math, science, extended graduation rate, closing achievement gaps and high progress. The distinction was given to:
I commend all of our students, staff and teachers for their hard work.
I am here to be a resource for you and hear about your concerns, issues and ideas. The legislative session may be coming to a close but my door is always open – I'm not just your legislator during the session, but year-round. If there is any part of state government that I can help you with, please contact me.