Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the Legislature's second special session continues, I feel like I owe you an update on what's happening here in Olympia.
Rather than partisan talk or placing blame, I just want to share my thoughts on where we stand.
The main thing to me is this: The economy and the taxpayers gave us $3.2 billion in additional tax collections for spending, which is a 9.2 percent increase over the last budget. That should be enough.
It's true we have unusual demands this year. Here's where the new money is going in the budget I support:
- Nearly $1.5 billion more for K-12 education.
- At least $73 million more for mental health care.
- Fund the first cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for public workers and teachers since 2008.
- Reduce tuition by up to 25 percent at state colleges and universities. This, by the way, would be the absolute best thing we could do for middle class families, who pay most of the bills in this state.
I don't know what the result of the negotiations this week will be, but I just want you to know I'm sincere and most of the people in the room are too, but they represent different groups of people with different interests. We're going to do our best, and when we have a result I'll let you know.
TEACHER PAY, LEGISLATOR SALARIES
We hear a great deal of debate about teacher pay. Although many teachers have received step increases, it's true there has been no COLA since 2008. I'm married to a teacher, so I get a first-hand look at the stress and the rewards in that job. We trust them with our children and expect them to do huge things. I'm glad that in the new budget they're getting a COLA.
Since public employee pay is so important to so many people, I want to be straight with you about what my compensation is. I get paid $42,106 per year – that amount has been the same since 2008 – plus the usual benefits. I do not participate in the retirement program. It's true that an independent citizens' commission voted for an 11 percent raise for legislators. I think the timing's bad, and as I've told people over and over, I'm going to donate that to my church until we pass a budget that includes the promised COLAs for public employees and teachers.
That's all for this week. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you – it's an honor.