Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Back in December, the governor released his proposal to solve McCleary: A multi-billion tax package that included a new carbon tax, a new capital gains income tax, and an increase in the state's business and occupation (B&O) tax on services. As I mentioned in my last email update, there is no appetite for these tax increases, and they're simply not going to happen. What will happen instead is budget negotiators from all four caucuses will come together to negotiate the Senate Republicans' and House Democrats' education funding proposals, both of which were released in the last week.
As a budget negotiator, I will be vocal in my support for keeping much of what's in the Senate plan, which provides ample and equitable school funding, while focusing on student outcomes, accountability and rewarding quality teachers.
Senate budget chair John Braun and his colleagues deserve a lot of credit for proposing numerous reforms to replace our current system, which relies too heavily on local levy dollars. As it exists in its current form, the Senate plan would implement a flat statewide property tax, which would result in reduced property taxes for many taxpayers in property-poor districts like the 2nd. Those in property-wealthy districts would pay a little bit more in property taxes, which would ensure students in other districts — typically property-poor districts — would receive the same funding and opportunities.
In addition to the replacement of high local levies with a flat property tax, this plan empowers local decision-making, encourages innovation, implements performance-based expectations and increases oversight. It also addresses the critically important issue of attracting and retaining quality teachers. Starting teacher pay would begin at $45,000 per year — a 26 percent increase from the current average. Additionally, school districts would be afforded the flexibility to reward high-performing teachers, as well as provide a housing allowance for teachers in high cost-of-living areas.
It is important we continue building on the good things we've accomplished the last four years — investing an additional $4.6 billion in K-12 education, ensuring smaller K-3 class sizes, expanding access to full-day kindergarten, providing meaningful teacher raises, and more. We will ultimately be judged not on the process, but on our solutions to make our K-12 education system more equitable for students, teachers and taxpayers. We need to make sure we get the job done this session and solve the final piece of the McCleary puzzle.
My first video update
I recently recorded my first video update of the session. In it, I discuss the importance of fostering an economic climate in Washington state that allows people in all 39 counties to prosper. Please take a few minutes to watch the video, and feel free to send me your thoughts about ways we can grow the economy in all areas of the state.
Appearing on TVW's Inside Olympia
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Austin Jenkins of TVW's Inside Olympia. We discussed a wide range of legislative issues, including the role our caucus plays as the minority party, how we'll contribute to budget negotiations, the best way to address McCleary, and more. Take a look!
One of the most important parts of my job is being accessible and helpful to you. I pride myself on bringing your issues to the forefront here in Olympia. If you ever need assistance in navigating a state agency or shining a light on a particular issue, please don't hesitate to call my office. My legislative assistant Sharon and I will make sure we promptly assist you in whatever ways we can.
I could not do my job as effectively without Sharon, and want to thank her for everything she does to make our office run so smoothly. It's an honor to have the opportunity to work with her every day as we represent you here in the Legislature.