Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week seven of the 2014 legislative session will continue into tomorrow with the House Appropriations Committee meeting to take action on bills. This committee work will set the state House of Representatives up for a busy week eight – including action on the supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets. Next week will include a lot of House floor action as state lawmakers look to get all of their work done by March 13. You can find the House schedule for next week here.
Supplemental operating budget proposals
A lot has happened this week that I wanted to share with you. On Wednesday, House Democrats rolled out their supplemental operating budget. Summaries can be found here (official document from the nonpartisan Office of Program Research) and here (through the lens of House Democrats). On whole, I have some concerns with the proposal. However, once reconciled with the bipartisan Senate supplemental operating budget, I'm hoping the Legislature can arrive at a compromise that builds on the hard work of last year and properly funds the priorities of state government. A lot of work remains to be done. You can find a detailed account of the bipartisan Senate budget, which passed 41-8 yesterday, here. For a summary, click here.
One of the concerns I have with the House Democrats' approach is they are proposing $100 million in new tax increases. I simply don't support this idea. While the revenue from these new tax increases would be dedicated to K-12 education, they are not needed. If K-12 education is the top funding priority for our state, which I believe it is, then we should prioritize it and not tie it to a potentially unstable funding source that could be repealed. Our schools, teachers and students deserve a more prioritized, sustainable and transparent approach.
Please also remember that state lawmakers prioritized K-12 education in the 2013-15 operating budget through a collaborative, bipartisan process that I was directly involved in last year. The Legislature took a big step forward for education last year, and I expect it will take another big step forward for our schools next year. But in a supplemental year like 2014, we only need to make minor, midcourse adjustments to our operating budget. Fortunately, many state lawmakers understand and agree with this position.
A bipartisan plan to fund full-day kindergarten, K-3 class-size reduction
A bipartisan plan emerged on Wednesday that would allow for $700 million in bonds, backed by state Lottery revenue, for grants to school districts to construct classrooms for K-3 class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten. The grants would be based on need and administered by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Perhaps most importantly, school districts would not be required to pass a local levy to match the funding. In addition to helping our state move closer to its state Supreme Court McCleary obligations, House Bill 2797 would also create jobs. The measure passed out of the House Capital Budget Committee and now awaits House floor action. You can watch the news conference on the plan here.
Video update: Addressing Obamacare/federal health care reform problems
By now, you've probably heard of some of the problems with Obamacare/federal health care reforms in our state. For example, cancellation notices, website glitches, unanswered calls at the Exchange, and individuals and families losing network coverage – including Seattle Children's Hospital. These problems represent broken promises and Washingtonians deserve better. I talk about some of these problems and proposed solutions in my recent video update. You can find it here.
The homestretch of the legislative session
Only 13 days remain in the legislative session. I will keep you updated on the major issues as they develop and votes are taken. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns.
Have a nice weekend.
In your service,