Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2013 Legislature finally adjourned Saturday, June 29. I am as relieved as you are! This morning I chatted with Ken Balsley on KGY about the end of session, education, the budgets, being a citizen legislator. You can listen to the interview here. That interview gave me a chance to review the entire session, and I want to share my reflections with you.
153 days in session
This year was the 5th longest session in our state's history in total days. As I've mentioned to you before, there were very different approaches to budgeting this year: with a Democrat majority and a governor who wanted to raise more than $1 billion in taxes, and a Senate majority made up of mostly Republicans and two Democrats who did not want to increase taxes but pass government reforms. While the ideological differences were vast, I'm disappointed it took two special sessions to adopt a budget, and especially coming so closely to the end of the 2011-13 budget cycle. I heard from many state government employees, teachers and more concerned about their jobs and paychecks, and I don't blame you for being concerned.
I was proud to be part of budget negotiations with my fellow House Republicans: Dan Kristiansen, our minority leader, and Gary Alexander, my 2nd District seatmate and our ranking member on the budget. In the midst of partisan bickering and government shutdown hype, the three of us remained focus on providing solutions and building consensus (some even referred to our caucus as Switzerland). In the past, the governor has acted as an intermediary between the two sides. This year, our new Governor Inslee was unsure how to lead budget negotiations as he is still inexperienced.
I spent many long nights at the Capitol, sometimes working until midnight to try to hammer out an agreement. Like most of you, I'm not happy with the process that got us to this point, but I am proud of the final outcome.
A balanced, bipartisan budget
The final operating budget puts education first, which matches up with our constitutional obligation to make education paramount. It does not increase taxes on the backs of small businesses or hardworking families. The budget is a balanced approach – it met House Democrats and the conservative Senate in the middle. In the end, 81 out of 98 representatives in the House, including myself, and 44 out of 49 senators supported the budget. This story in The News Tribune even praises the final outcome. You can read the statement sent to the press by myself, Gary Alexander and Dan Kristiansen here.
Here are the highlights of the final 2013-15 budget:
- It spends $1.03 billion more on K-12 education than the last budget. This targeted spending includes funding for supplies and operating costs (to reduce the local levy burden), student transportation, reduced class sizes in early elementary classrooms, expanding all-day kindergarten, and teacher and principal evaluations and training. This is the first step in meeting our mandates by the state Supreme Court in the McCleary case.
- It spends less than the state is expected to bring in ($33.49 billion spent compared with $33.54 billion in revenues).
- We successfully expired beer and small business tax increases House Democrats passed. (Who's ever heard of a temporary tax actually expiring?)
- It leaves $630 million in reserves for next year's supplemental budget.
The June revenue forecast told us the state would be bringing in $231 million more than expected, and the caseload forecast showed that less people are using government programs, saving the state $90 million. Both of these were great news for our economy as it slowly recovers. The news also helped make up the differences in budget negotiations and eliminate the perceived “need” by some for tax increases.
To read the full details of the budget, click here.
Wins for rural Washington
There a couple things that happened this year in the final days of session that will help our rural Washington.
- House Bill 1632 will expand all-terrain vehicle (ATV) access to allow more people to enjoy off-road vehicle recreation and allow for local decisions to be made about the usage of ATVs. This bill passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting action by the governor.
- A $10 billion transportation revenue package proposed by House Democrats and Governor Inslee that would include a 10-cent gas tax increase over 13 months failed to pass the Senate. I voted against this measure in the House, because commuters like many in our district can't afford to pay more to go to work or find a job. Now that the Seattle-centric proposal was defeated, we need to find a transportation solution that will work for the whole state. I'm willing to be part of that effort.
I hope you'll keep in contact with me during the “interim” this summer and fall. I'll be meeting with several groups and attending events around our community, so I hope to see you! Feel free to contact my office to arrange a meeting with me, also!
It's an honor to serve you.