Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After 176 days, a regular session and three special sessions, it is great to be out of Olympia and back home with family, friends and the citizens of the 39th District.
The Legislature finished its business on Friday afternoon, passing final bills, including a measure to suspend the class-size initiative (I-1351), which would have cost the state an additional $2 billion to $4 billion it doesn't have, and a measure to delay high school biology testing requirements for two years that allows about 2,000 students who failed the test to graduate this year.
For details on the final day, I invite you to listen to my radio report here.
Extended sessions keep $1.5 billion in taxpayers' pockets
I share the frustration of many that it took so long for the Legislature to finish its work. I was one of three negotiators for House Republicans on the state operating budget, and I was in Olympia nearly every day since the beginning of session on Jan. 12.
We knew going into this session that the state would be collecting an additional $3 billion in revenue because of an economic upswing in the greater Puget Sound region. Republicans had a plan from day one of the session to use that additional money to balance the budget, make major investments in education, take care of mental illness services, and provide for public safety and our most vulnerable citizens. We were confident that this additional revenue would allow us to pay for these priorities without raising taxes.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Democrats in the House and Senate insisted on raising taxes by as much as $1.5 billion. First, the governor proposed a carbon tax. But Inslee couldn't even get support among his own party for that proposal. Then majority House Democrats proposed an operating budget that would have relied on a combination of business tax increases and implementation of a capital gains income tax. House Democrats passed their operating budget plan, but they never brought those tax proposals to pay for that plan to the House floor for a vote.
My Republican colleagues in the House and Senate held firm with our message of no major tax increases. After a revenue forecast in May predicted the state would bring in even more money, Democrats reluctantly dropped their proposal for business tax increases. Then in late June, they finally abandoned their capital gains income tax proposal.
In the end, there were some small tax loopholes closed as a part of the final budget compromise. Nevertheless, our negotiation strategy resulted in a state operating budget proposal that had the highest bipartisan support in more than 25 years, and is not built upon those major tax increases Democrats and the governor originally sought.
So you could say the extended time in session saved taxpayers $1.5 billion, which is significant. The 2015-17 budget itself, however, is historic in that it provides an additional $1.3 billion for K-12 education, funds cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for teachers, pays for raises for state employees, and for the first time in the history of our state, CUTS higher education tuition.
I invite you to read more about the operating budget in my press release here.
While there are some who will criticize the time it took for lawmakers to finish their business this year, I'm very proud of the accomplishments we have made in the past six months. We passed more than 300 bipartisan bills that will benefit Washingtonians and communities across our state, including the operating, capital and transportation budgets. Next week in this report, I will highlight details of the capital budget we passed, along with local projects funded for the 39th District.
Although the Legislature has adjourned, please remember I work for you throughout the year. If you have questions, comments or suggestions about the materials in this email update, or any other items relating to legislation and state government, please reach out to my office. You will find my contact information below.
In your service,