Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Cherry blossoms are blooming at the Capitol, signaling Sine Die is near. In fact, the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn this Thursday, March 10.
Only three days remain in the 2016 session
The last week to consider Senate-approved bills ended Friday, March 4. From now until Thursday, the focus is on differences between the House and Senate bills. Budget negotiators will also be working behind the scenes to reconcile the differences between the House Democrat and Senate Majority Coalition Caucus supplemental operating, capital and transportation budget proposals.
Budget negotiations progress
There seems to be a lot of progress on the final versions of the capital and transportation budgets, but some differences on the operating budget remain between Republicans and Democrats. We continue to advocate for the Senate Republicans’ initial approach: make necessary adjustments to state programs and services; do not raid the Budget Stabilization Account for non-emergencies; and do not raise taxes on Washingtonians. We need a true supplemental operating budget — not a spending plan that would add new policies and taxes, and leave our state vulnerable for the inevitable rainy day.
A true supplemental budget
Last year, after several months of negotiations, the House and Senate came to an agreement on a compromise two-year state operating budget (that also balances out for four years). This operating budget was approved on a bipartisan vote to pay for the state’s financial obligations through June 30, 2017.
As noted above, a true supplemental budget is one in which we make necessary adjustments to the financial needs of state programs and services. Negotiations this year are centering on several hundred million dollars, not in the billions as the full $38 billion two-year state operating budget involved last year. This year, we must find agreement to pay for suppression of the devastating wildfires last summer in Eastern Washington, which is a legitimate expense in the supplemental budget.
When House Republicans were in the majority in 1998, then-House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Tom Huff summarized the meaning of a true supplemental budget on the back of his business card. It read: “A supplemental budget request will be considered if:
- It is an unanticipated, unmanageable change in an entitlement program, workload or caseload;
- It corrects a serious technical error in the original appropriation;
- It deals with an emergency; or
- It addresses an opportunity that will not be available next biennium.”
Those are great standards to keep in mind as we negotiate our supplemental budgets this year.
I work for you throughout the year
Although the 2016 legislative session is coming to an end, I continue to serve as your state representative throughout the year. Please feel free to call my office if you have a concern, idea or suggestion about state government, or if you are having difficulty dealing with a state agency. My office stands ready to help. You’ll find my contact information below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you in the state Legislature.
In your service,