Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 60-day, 2014 legislative session ended just before midnight on Thursday night. For the first time since 2009, state lawmakers are not facing a special session. If everything goes according to plan, the Legislature will not convene again until January 12, 2015.
While the legislative session is over, please remember I’m your state representative year-round. I’m here to answer your questions, listen to your ideas and help you navigate problems with state government.
Whether you respond to these e-mail updates or simply take time out of your busy day to read them, I appreciate your feedback and interest. We truly have a citizen Legislature here in Washington and your involvement in the legislative process embodies this notion.
Below you will find some final summaries on important issues from the legislative session. For those of you who like to dig a little deeper, here is a preliminary summary of all legislation that passed this year.
Video update: Supplemental operating, transportation and capital budgets
Our state has three primary budgets – the operating, transportation and capital budgets. In odd-numbered years, such as 2013, these two-year budgets are crafted, passed and go into effect on July 1 of that year. In even-numbered years, such as 2014, mid-course adjustments are made to these budgets. I talk about the supplemental budget process in this recent video update.
Audio update: A look back on the 2014 legislative session
I sat down with our broadcast coordinator to discuss the highlights and disappointments of the 2014 legislative session, and to look ahead to 2015. You can find the short interview here.
Supplemental operating budget
As I mentioned in my last e-mail update, the 2013-15 operating budget, which passed at the end of last June, appropriated $33.5 billion. This budget pays for state priorities such as K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, corrections, debt service, and other areas of state government. Since last June, forecasted revenue has increased and fiscal year 2013 reversions were higher than expected. This increased the fund balance for the Near General Fund-State (NGF-S) and Opportunity Pathway accounts by $441 million. In other words, primarily due to an improving economy, state lawmakers had a little more money to work with in the middle of the two-year budget cycle.
The 2014 supplemental operating budget passed on the last day of the legislative session on a 85-13 vote. I voted for it. It increases spending by about $155 million in the NGF-S and Opportunity Pathways accounts, resulting in total appropriations of about $33.7 billion for 2013-15. The supplement operating budget leaves more than $300 million in the ending fund balance of the NGF-S and Opportunity Pathways accounts.
Of the aforementioned $155 million, $89 million is for maintenance level adjustments and $66 million is for policy adjustments. Here is a breakdown in these investments: public education K-12 ($64 million); higher education ($35 million); long-term care, mental health and developmental disabilities ($26 million); and other state programs ($30 million).
This budget is not perfect, but it represents compromise and is better than the first version that passed out of the House (I voted against this proposal). In House floor debate, there were good arguments for and against the budget. You can find that debate here.
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.
The House supplemental capital budget, which I voted for, would have made $72.9 million in new, net GO bond appropriations. These investments would have included our higher education system, the Department of Corrections, flood relief projects, our mental health system, and storm water and water quality grants.
The Senate decided to pursue a much different path to its supplemental capital budget. When it was all said and done, the differences between the House and Senate proposals were just too significant. The end result was the Legislature not passing a supplemental capital budget. This outcome is rare, but not unprecedented and happened in 1996. While this was disappointing, state lawmakers will re-group and come together next year to make important investments across our state.
Other bills of interest
- Senate Bill 6552 will redirect a $97 million appropriation for increased instructional hours to support implementation of a new 24-credit graduation requirement. This will be distributed to districts through an increase in materials, supplies and operation costs (MSOC) funding and a reduced class-size allocation for laboratory science in grades 9-12. I voted for this legislation. It passed the House 93-5 and the Senate 45-2. Expected to be signed into law by the governor.
- House Bill 2797 would have allowed for $700 million in bonds, backed by state Lottery revenue, for grants to school districts to construct classrooms for full-day kindergarten and K-3 class-size reduction. School districts would not be required to pass a local levy to match the construction funding. I supported this legislation. It passed the House 90-7, but died in the Senate.
- No “No Child Left Behind” waiver. Due to tremendous pressure from one influential special interest group, a bill that would have simply made a minor adjustment to our state’s teacher and principal evaluation system was stopped. I supported this legislation. Its failure will likely result in the loss of $38 million in federal funding that would have helped some of our most disadvantaged students. They will likely lose the teachers and programs that support them. This outcome is unfortunate and unacceptable.
Jobs and economy
- House Bill 2192 will promote economic development through enhancing transparency and predictability of state agency permitting and review processes. I supported this legislation. It passed the House 96-0 and the Senate 48-0. Expected to be signed into law by the governor.
- House Bill 2672 would have increased the statewide minimum wage to $12 per hour over three years. I opposed this legislation. It passed the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee, but died in the House Appropriations Committee.
- House Bill 2795 would have imposed a 75 percent “other tobacco products” (OTP) tax on “tobacco substitutes,” and included e-cigarettes in the definition. It would have also imposed a requirement to purchase a license and be subject to Liquor Board oversight. Several people came to Olympia to share their stories about how e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking. I opposed this legislation. It passed the House Finance Committee, but never moved to the House floor.
- House Bill 2309 will establish taxpayer-friendly reforms to the laws regarding county treasurer authorities in order to increase flexibility for payments of property taxes, and allow waivers of certain penalties. I heard from constituents who wanted this legislation and I supported it. It passed the House 97-0 and the Senate 44-5. Expected to be signed into law by the governor.
- House Bill 2094 would transfer the sales tax paid on transportation projects into the motor vehicle account rather than the general fund. This measure would allow more state gas tax dollars to be used for critical transportation infrastructure needs. I supported this legislation. It never received a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.
Military and veterans
- House Bill 2363 will allow spouses and children of military service members who are eligible for developmental disability services to retain that eligibility while living out of state due to military assignment as long as they remain residents of the state. I supported this legislation. It passed the House 95-0 and the Senate 49-0. Expected to be signed into law by the governor.
- House Bill 2506 would have increased the penalty for a DUI from a class C felony to a class B felony, resulting in offenders with more previous felony convictions who could be sentenced to community supervision after they were released from prison. I supported this legislation. It received a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee, but did not move forward.
In your service,