Rep. Dan Kristiansen praises new operating budget
It seemed like the entire state gave a collective sigh of relief late Tuesday night as Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new two-year, $38 billion state operating budget just a half hour before the state's new fiscal cycle took effect on July 1.
After nearly six months and two special sessions, an agreement on a spending plan was reached between Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate, and announced to the public on June 27. It took a third special session, beginning June 28, to finalize the document, and Senate Bill 6052 passed Monday, June 29, with a vote of 38-10 in the Senate and 90-8 in the House.
House Republican Leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, was among the negotiators of the bipartisan operating budget agreement.
“It's unfortunate that it took as long as it did to reach a budget agreement. That being said, at the end of the day, we had the largest 'yes' vote on a bipartisan operating budget in more than 25 years,” said Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “I think the end product serves the state better than any budget we've seen in a long time.”
The final agreement will inject an additional $1.3 billion into K-12 education, meeting the state's constitutional obligations and the state Supreme Court mandate of the McCleary decision. It decreases class sizes in grades K-3 and expands access to full-day kindergarten. The new budget also funds cost-of-living raises for teachers, plus a little extra.
“We are making the largest increase in education spending that we've seen in more than 30 years,” said Kristiansen. “And something very historic and not done anywhere else in the nation is that we are actually lowering tuition rates. This is going to be very helpful, especially for middle-class families, who have never really gotten a break.”
Under the agreement, tuition at community and technical colleges will be reduced by 5 percent, 15 percent at Washington State University and the University of Washington, and 20 percent at regional public institutions.
Kristiansen noted the spending plan also makes investments to address court-mandated fixes in the state's mental health system.
“Until now, the Legislature has not dealt with properly funding care for those with mental health issues. As a result, a lot of these people have ended up on the streets or even into our state's prison system. So we are making some investments I really feel passionate about to help solve these problems and take care of our most vulnerable populations,” said Kristiansen.
The 39th District lawmaker said negotiations were drawn out because Democrats and Gov. Inslee wanted to raise taxes by as much as $1.5 billion — including a carbon tax, a capital gains income tax, and a tax on bottled water — and Republicans held firm against those tax increases. Eventually, Democrats dropped their major tax increase proposals after Republicans agreed to allow some smaller tax preferences to expire.
“What was really helpful is that a surge in the economy of Central Puget Sound will be providing an additional $3.2 billion to Washington's coffers without tax increases. We knew that going into the session in January. But until about two weeks ago, Democrats still insisted on raising taxes, which we felt was unnecessary and potentially harmful to families, jobs and the economy,” said Kristiansen.
“We had a plan going into this session that would have balanced the budget, made major investments in education, addressed mental health issues, public safety, and all of the things important to the citizens of this state without raising taxes,” he added. “The increase of revenue without tax increases allowed us to put even more money into those areas, and I think that is something we can all be proud of.”
###Washington State House Republican Communications