Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 89th day of the 105-day session. The Legislature is switching gears from debating policies and issue-oriented legislation to adopting the three budgets of the state: operating (daily operations), capital (construction) and transportation budgets. We now have budget proposals from the governor, the bipartisan coalition in the Senate, and House Democrats. With these, the public and lobbyists will weigh in, and negotiations can begin.
Watch my recent video update where I discuss what the Legislature is doing to help our current and past military service members with a friend and veteran from the 2nd District:
A tale of two budgets – the operating budget
Last week, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus released its proposal to balance the operating budget without raising taxes. Not only does the proposal meet education funding requirements set forth by the Supreme Court, it reduces higher education tuition costs for students and families and it makes real government efficiencies and program reductions, all while protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
This week, the House Democrat Caucus released its proposal to balance the budget – unfortunately, with $1.2 billion in tax increases. Many of the tax proposals are similar to what we saw with Governor Inslee's tax package. While the approach to the budget for House Republicans and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus is to see how much in taxpayer dollars we have and decide what is the most efficient way of spending, the House majority and governor's approach is to decide what they want to do and increase taxes to meet it.
What's noteworthy is that the Senate budget passed with 30 “yes” votes – including seven Democrats from the minority caucus. The people have spoken to us clearly about tax increases, and our economy is still recovering, so tax increases are the wrong direction. The Senate and House Republicans have shown the governor and House Democrats that the budget can be balanced without tax increases and still prioritize education and protect the safety net for the most vulnerable. I hope we can negotiate the proposals in a bipartisan fashion, doing what's best for the people. As the assistant ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, I'm committed to finding the best solution.
Supporting the rural economy
I'm happy to share that lumber markets have improved recently. Production is up 8 percent, and prices are 60 percent higher than they were at the end of 2011. This is great news for the people working in our forests and in the lumber industry.
In 2011, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5748 to allow people to sell goods likes jam and bread made in their home kitchens. The cottage food industry is important in our rural communities and something I have kept an eye on. I'm pleased to report that since the new law went into effect in July 2012, 35 permits have been issued. The Department of Agriculture which administers the program has been overwhelmed by many applications and recipes from folks across the state wanting to make and sell food from their homes. The agency has assured me it is working on reducing the wait time for applicants. If you would like more information about applying for a cottage food permit, visit this Web site.
The last three weeks of the session will define the entire year. I want you to know I will keep the needs of the 2nd District: more jobs, holding the line on taxes and better education outcomes in the front of my mind as I vote. Please contact my office anytime with questions, comments or concerns. It's a pleasure and an honor to represent you in Olympia.