Dear Friends and Neighbors,
House Democrats released the session's first operating budget proposal last week. Their plan raises state spending from $33.8 billion in 2013-15 to $38.8 billion in 2015-17 and approximately $43 billion in 2017-19. That's an increase of nearly $10 billion in just six years!
Their plan also raises taxes by $1.5 billion in 2015-17 and $2.4 billion in 2017-19. I had hoped to see a state budget that lives within our means and takes advantage of the $3 billion in extra tax collections the state is expected to receive. With $3 billion more coming into the state during this next two-year budget cycle, we should have enough to fund education first, invest more into our mental health system, work on bringing down the cost of higher education, and continue to protect our citizens.
I also have concerns that their proposal completely eliminates the state spending limit, something approved by voters and used to help keep government growth in check. It also leaves a very small ending fund balance of $4 million at the end of the 2017-19 biennium. A tiny downturn in the economy or another lawsuit against the state would make this proposal out of balance.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues on a budget compromise that funds education, rebuilds faith with the public, protects taxpayers and protects the most vulnerable. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I believe we can – and should – complete our work in the 105 days allotted for this session.
Let your voice be heard
If you'd like to contact members of the House Appropriations Committee to let them know what you think of more taxes and more state spending, click here. You can also contact the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message for elected officials.
My bill to help address the current and future doctor shortages in rural areas passed the House unanimously, 98-0. House Bill 1485 would expand the medical schools that participate in the Family Medicine Residency Network (FMRN) to include the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima and would also include future accredited medical schools. It would require the schools to prioritize future residencies for shortage areas and also re-establish the Family Medicine Education Advisory Board and has an accountability measure that requires regular reporting.
To read my press release on this bill passing the House, click here.
1) What issue is most important to you?
State Spending = 31.31%
Jobs/The Economy = 23.23%
K-12 Education = 20.71%
Health Care = 8.59%
Other = 7.07%
Environment = 5.56%
Transportation = 3.54%
2) The governor is proposing a carbon tax on large employers and on many large energy companies to pay for transportation and education. Knowing this will most likely raise the price of certain goods and services as well as energy prices, would you support the governor's plan?
YES = 23.23%
NO = 56.57%
Not sure. Need more information = 20.20%
3) The idea of a 12 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase is being floated around Olympia. Are you in favor of this gas tax increase to pay for new transportation projects?
YES = 22.11%
NO = 54.27%
Maybe, but only if the 8th LD received its fair share of projects and significant reforms are made to DOT = 23.62%
4) Instead of a gas tax increase, there is talk of a “vehicle miles travelled” tax, or “road fee,” to fund transportation projects. Would you support this road fee to fund transportation?
YES = 11.79%
NO = 57.44%
Not sure. Need more information = 30.77%
5) Regarding I-594 and the legal transfer of firearms, what should the Legislature focus on?
Muster the votes to repeal the initiative = 48.74%
Do nothing. It's the law now – leave it be = 22.46%
Try to send it back to the voters with more information = 18.37%
Try to fix it in piecemeal fashion, addressing issues as they come up (armed security guards, gun range employees, military veteran funerals, museums, etc.) = 10.71%
It was good to see my good friend Rick Jansons and his daughter Bailie as they visited me in Olympia recently. Rick is a former Richland School Board President and is now with Habitat for Humanity. It's always nice to see and hear from folks back home when they make the trek to Olympia, especially outstanding citizens like Rick. I wouldn't be surprised if Bailie follows in her father's footsteps and serves her local community in some fashion when she grows up.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved in your state government. Feel free to contact my office with your questions, concerns or comments about state issues.