Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Only seven days remain in the 2014 legislative session. The state House of Representatives passed three supplemental state budgets this week – the operating, capital and transportation budgets. These proposals are now being negotiated with the state Senate and final budgets will be voted on next week. I'd like to provide you some information on the House versions of these budgets – including how I voted.
Supplemental operating budget
The 2013-15 operating budget, which passed at the end of last June, appropriated $33.5 billion for priorities such as K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, corrections, debt service, and other areas of state government. Since then, forecasted revenue has increased and fiscal year 2013 reversions were higher than expected. This increased the fund balance for the Near General Fund-State and Opportunity Pathway accounts by $441 million. State revenue sources include: retail sales tax; business and occupation tax; property tax; real estate excise tax; and several other taxes, fees, federal revenues, transfers, etc.
The House supplemental operating budget, a striking amendment to Senate Bill 6002, would increase spending by $246 million during the two-year budget cycle – resulting in total spending of about $33.8 billion. Of the $246 million increase, about $91 million is due to maintenance level changes and a net of $155 million is due to policy changes.
In addition to this base budget, the majority party in the House also proposed a tax-increase package of around $100 million. They target extracted fuel, bottled water, prescription drugs and the non-resident sales tax exemption. Their original plan was to use this revenue to restore teacher COLAs and spend more money on early learning. We will have to see how this plays out in the next week.
I voted against the House supplemental operating budget. It's by no means a bad budget, but the bipartisan Senate supplemental operating budget – which passed 41-8 – more closely aligns with my budget priorities of education, public safety and taking care of those who can't take care of themselves through no fault of their own. We took a major step forward in K-12 education funding last year, and we will need to take another important step forward next year. This year, we should just make minor, mid-course adjustments to our operating budget. I'm hoping I can vote for the negotiated, final supplemental operating budget next week.
Supplemental capital budget
The 2013-15 capital budget appropriated $3.6 billion, including general obligation (GO) bonds, cash and other funds. The capital budget, also known as the construction and bricks-and-mortar budget, provides funding for the construction and repair of public buildings and other long-term investments such as recreation infrastructure and environmental cleanup. It also authorizes the expenditure of federal funds and provides or lends money to local governments or nonprofit organizations for infrastructure, housing and facilities. To learn about 39th District projects, please go to this website, click on “Map Projects,” select “Legislative District,” and scroll down to “039.”
The House supplemental capital budget, a striking amendment to Senate Bill 6020, would make $72.9 million in new, net GO bond appropriations – leaving approximately $25 million in unused bond capacity. Total funds appropriated (GO bonds, cash and other funds) would be increased by $166.5 million.
I voted for the House supplemental capital budget because it would make important investments in higher education, the Department of Corrections, flood relief, mental health, and storm water and water quality grants. It also would not appropriate money for new state land acquisitions.
Supplemental transportation budget
The 2013-15 transportation budget appropriated $8.7 billion from state, federal and other sources for capital projects and operating programs. The revenue comes from each of us as we pay fuel taxes (18.4 cents federal, 37.5 cents state), license fees, federal taxes, permit and other fees, tolls, ferry fares, vehicle sales tax, rental car taxes, and other miscellaneous sources.
The House supplemental transportation budget, House Bill 2762, would add $338 million in spending. There would be $268 million from reappropriations, $46.4 million from increased revenues and a $102.3 million reduction in expected debt service payments.
I voted against the House supplemental transportation budget primarily because it would raise the state funding level of $2.7 billion on the State Route 520 Bridge replacement to cover the WSDOT's mistakes. Around $172 million in additional funds would be added on top of the $250 million risk reserve in the project. By now, you've probably heard of all the problems associated with this megaproject – including cost overruns, pontoon design failure and tolling delays. All of these failures were preventable and are unacceptable. We need more accountability at the WSDOT – and it starts at the top with our governor. The bottom line is the extra costs of megaprojects shouldn't fall on taxpayers.
I hope you have a nice weekend. I'll be in touch next week as the legislative session comes to a close.
In your service,