Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been a while since I have communicated with you via this email update. Since April, we have undergone some very sensitive negotiations on issues with the new state operating budget, McCleary education funding, and a fix to the state Supreme Court Hirst water decision. As House Republican leader, I've been working with our negotiators to facilitate meaningful and lasting solutions for the people of the state of Washington. Now that the Legislature adjourned July 20 after a regular session and three special sessions totaling a record 193 days, I thought this would be the most appropriate time to bring you up to date on these very important issues.
Legislature provides education funding reforms as final McCleary solution is adopted
On Jan. 5, 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. State of Washington that the state was not living up to its paramount and constitutional duty to amply provide for the education of children within its borders. It gave the Legislature until 2018 to put additional education funding and reforms in place.
The court also said Washington must stop relying on local school district property taxes to pay teachers, school administrators and classified staff. After months of negotiations, a compromise bipartisan bill emerged that provides the most comprehensive levy reform in Washington's history.
House Bill 2242 initially increases the statewide property tax by about 81 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2018. However, in 2019 many property owners across the state will see their property taxes go down. The new law will cap the levies at either $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed value or $2,500 per student, whichever is lower. Levy equalization assistance is provided to property-poor districts that can't reach $1,500 per pupil at a levy of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value.
This new plan will pump about $7.3 billion of additional state money into public schools over the next four years. This is on top of the additional $4.6 billion directed to K-12 education in the past four years.
Teacher salaries begin at $40,000, plus a 10 percent increase for Certified Instructional Staff after five years. There's a maximum salary of $90,000 and a district-wide average salary of about $64,000 per teacher. You can read more about the McCleary solution here.
During the last week of June, negotiators finally came to an agreement on both the education funding plan and a new two-year state operating budget. We were able to avoid a government shutdown and passed the $43.7 billion state operating budget, Senate Bill 5883, by a vote of 70-23 in the House and 39-10 in the Senate.
Highlights of the compromise budget include:
- Historic investments in K-12 education. K-12 education now represents more than 50 percent of the operating budget for the first time since the early 1980s.
- No new capital gains income tax, carbon tax or B&O tax rate increases. We successfully fought against more than $8 billion in proposed tax increases over the next four years.
- New mental health investments. The budget provides more in-patient beds, more beds for walk-in centers, and an increase in staffing levels and quality of care.
Governor vetoes job-creating manufacturing tax reduction
The negotiated bipartisan budget agreement also included a B&O tax reduction for all manufacturing companies in the state, giving them the same preferential tax rate as Boeing. We saw this as a victory for the creation of more jobs in Washington. Unfortunately, 23 Democratic legislators urged the governor to veto that section of the bill, despite 15 of them voting for it. Even more unfortunate is that Gov. Inslee complied, vetoing the manufacturing tax rate reduction. Many of us felt this went back on the agreement budget negotiators from both parties reached and could make future negotiations more difficult.
Urban Democrats refuse to allow vote on permanent Hirst fix
It may be the most impactful private property rights issue in the history of our state — the Hirst decision. Last October, the state Supreme Court created an artificial water crisis that threatens the right of rural and suburban property owners to drill new wells for household use.
Under the court's Hirst decision, every new proposal for a small well requires a costly study to prove it won't harm fish. Some counties have already stopped granting building permits. No water means no development, property values will plummet, and those property taxes will be shifted to those who already have established developments, including businesses and family homes. (To learn more about the impacts, I invite you to read an opinion editorial by my seatmate, Rep. John Koster, and 7th District Rep. Jacqueline Maycumber, here.)
A Republican-sponsored measure, Senate Bill 5239, to permanently roll back the Hirst decision passed the Senate four times. However, Democrats in the House have refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Instead, during negotiations, they offered a temporary 24-month window for wells to be dug, with a provision that would have given Native American tribes final authority over water decisions. After the two-year window, Hirst would remain permanent. That is totally unacceptable to us and to property owners across the state of Washington.
Republicans in the House and Senate strongly believe in a permanent Hirst fix that does not cede your water rights to special interests. That's why we have held firm that a permanent Hirst fix must be in place before we pass a capital budget. This $4 billion budget funds construction statewide and matters to all of us. However, we do not believe it is fair to allow the state to build its projects using taxpayer dollars, while telling taxpaying families who are being denied water on their private property to go pound sand. Families shouldn't have their dream homes, investments and retirement plans ruined because of the Hirst court ruling.
We returned to Olympia on the final day of the third special session, July 20, with the hopes of passing both a permanent Hirst fix and a capital budget. Unfortunately, many Democratic lawmakers didn't even show up. There was no role call taken, which has never happened in the years I've served in the Legislature, and the House was never called to order. This gave us no opportunity to vote on either or both of the issues. Most of our Republican lawmakers stayed through the day, hoping to take a vote, until it became clear Democratic leaders in the House had no intention of holding a floor session that day. Instead, the Legislature moved into sine die proceedings and adjourned for the year.
With great disappointment, I issued this statement. I want to be clear House Republicans are willing, ready and hopeful to return at any time to Olympia to pass a PERMANENT Hirst fix AND a capital budget. These are important issues to us and the people of Washington state need and deserve BOTH.
I welcome your comments
Although the Legislature is now adjourned, I work for you throughout the year. Please contact me if you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government and legislation. It is my honor to serve you!
In your service,