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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Tomorrow, April 9, is known here at the Capitol as “fiscal cutoff.” It is the last day for committees to consider and pass bills from the opposite chamber. By tomorrow, most committee action will be wrapped up and our focus for the remaining three weeks of the session will be on the House floor, considering and debating Senate bills that have passed their respective committees. The next major deadline is April 17. That is the date all bills from the opposite chambers must pass from the House and Senate, or they are considered “dead” for the session. The exception are bills necessary to implement the budget.
Speaking of budgets, last Friday the Senate voted to approve its operating budget proposal.
As always, your comments are welcome. You'll find my contact information at the bottom of this e-mail update. Please do not hit “reply” to this report, as it will not reach me.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
Senate Majority Coalition Caucus operating budget gains bipartisan support
The Senate passed its bipartisan 2013-15 operating budget on a 30-18 vote Friday. You can find more details on the group's plan here. House Democrats will likely release their operating budget proposal on Wednesday.
Highlights of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus' (SMCC) operating budget include:
- $1.5 billion more for K-12 education ($1 billion for McCleary);
- $300 million more for higher education;
- Balances for four years;
- A truly bipartisan operating budget; and
- No new taxes.
While it's not exactly how House Republicans would write the operating budget if given the opportunity, the SMCC's initial approach represents many of our principles and priorities for the state. I am especially encouraged that the Senate budget would reform and make new investments in K-12 education, fund other important priorities and make state government more efficient. I'm also pleased that it would not rely on new tax increases – something Gov. Inslee proposed last week.
Republican Sen. Andy Hill said the Senate measure includes some tough decisions, but helps reprioritize state spending without relying on taxes. “The last thing we want to do at this point is take money out of their pockets when they're struggling and when small businesses are struggling,” Hill said. The article can be found here.
I hope that the bipartisan work in the Senate will carry over in the House and allow us to approve a budget based on priorities – funding education first – and no tax increases, while finishing this legislative session on time (April 28).
Congratulations to our local schools!
Five schools in the 39th District have been issued the 2012 Washington Achievement Award by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.
The award celebrates schools for Overall Excellence and special recognition in:
- Language Arts
- Extended Graduation Rate
- Closing Achievement Gaps
- High-Progress (Title I eligible or participating schools only)
Local schools that will be honored include:
- Kent Prairie Elementary – Arlington
- Lyman Elementary – Sedro-Woolley
- Sedro-Woolley Senior High School – Sedro-Woolley
- Sky Valley Education Center – Monroe
- Sultan Elementary – Sultan
The awards will be issued April 30 at a ceremony at Kentwood High School in Covington.
Great students, great teachers and great schools! Congratulations!
Tax incentives: What do you think? Take our quick survey.
Tax incentives are used to entice employers to locate in Washington and create jobs. They essentially provide a tax break to certain businesses and entities. Several of these incentives are due to expire in June. Those whose tax incentives expire or are repealed would be paying higher taxes to the state.
Do you think repealing a tax incentive for employers is the same as increasing taxes? Take our survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6L9Z559
Fix it BEFORE you fund it!
This week's reform: Ensure accountability by reporting expensive engineering mistakes
Last fall, KOMO News 4, a television station in Seattle, began a series of investigative reports that uncovered disturbing news – six pontoons being built for the new $4.65 billion State Route 520 floating bridge were leaking. And while the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) had admitted the leaks, the full extent of the problems was not disclosed until KOMO's investigative reports began airing. KOMO found a pattern of design flaws, construction mistakes and contract violations made in the building of the largest floating bridge in the world. Some engineers said privately they would not trust taking their family over the new 520 bridge once it is completed. It could cost $100 million or more to repair.
Just two years earlier, contractors for WSDOT built a new off ramp above Nalley Valley in Tacoma that they later determined was constructed in the wrong place. The contractor followed a WSDOT engineer's specifications. It was a mistake that cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars. The ramp had to be torn down and rebuilt.
And then there's the MV Chetzemoka, a 64-car ferry built for $79 million and deployed in 2010 that lists to one side.
These are considerable problems that seem to be brushed aside by WSDOT as no big deal. But when you are talking millions and billions of dollars, it is a big deal!
House Democrats have proposed several tax increases that would go for transportation purposes. However, my House Republican colleagues and I feel that before another dime is taken from taxpayers in Washington, we need to set in place a plan of reforms to make sure these problems don't continue.
Among our proposed reforms is House Bill 1986. This measure would require WSDOT to report engineering errors costing more than $500,000 and explain what went wrong to the Legislature. In addition, it would require the agency to put in place a plan to correct errors and ensure similar mistakes do not happen on future projects.
We need to make sure every transportation dollar is used effectively and hold WSDOT accountable for unnecessary and costly errors.
Fix it BEFORE you fund it! That's the concept behind House Bill 1986, which I'm pleased to say has gained enough support to pass the House Transportation Committee. It is now awaiting action by the full house. This is one small, but important step toward reforming our state's transportation system. House Republicans have five more reforms we believe should be enacted BEFORE seeking more revenue for transportation. Go here to read our entire plan. I invite you to read this press release on our proposed reforms which have passed the House Transportation Committee.
We have many groups that visit the state Capitol during the legislative session and participate in events. Here's a look at public events planned this week.
Tuesday, April 9
Pacific Science Center Day
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Location: Legislative Building – 3rd Floor Mezzanine
Estimated attendance: 200
Thursday, April 11
Washington Cattlemen's barbeque
12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Sponsored by: Washington Cattlemen's Association
Location: West Campus
Estimated attendance: 1000
Washington State Department of Agriculture Centennial
9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Sponsored by: Washington State Department of Agriculture
Location: Legislative Building – 3rd Floor Mezzanine, South Portico
Estimated attendance: 200
La Salle High School Band Performance
12 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Sponsored by: La Salle High School
Event type: Public
Location: Legislative Building – Rotunda
Estimated attendance: 30
Saturday, April 13
1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Sponsored by: Colville High School
Vigil to Remember Victims of Gun Violence
3 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Sponsored by: Organizing for Action
Legislative Building – North Steps
Estimated attendance: 50-100
In your service,
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000