Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature finally adjourned action for the year July 20. After 193 days of session — a record I hope no future legislature tries to break — lawmakers can now take time to look back and reflect on the many wonderful achievements the body had this year. In fact, I'm hosting events on Aug. 22-23 throughout the 14th District where you can meet with me in-person to get a recap of the 2017 session and ask questions. For more details, click here. I hope to see you at one of these events!
Before I get into the details of some of session's successes, I wanted to shed some light on the final couple of days of the legislative session.
Since April, lawmakers had agreed to simultaneously negotiate a new state capital (construction) budget and a long-term fix to a water-rights dispute known as the Hirst decision*. Tying these bills together signified the importance in ensuring private property owners could enjoy the same privileges the state can. In other words, if the government is allowed to build, so should private citizens.
For months, negotiators worked to hammer out a compromise plan to fix Hirst that would: allow cities and counties to rely on rules already established by the Department of Ecology; provide certainty to landowners; permit the drilling of domestic wells without needing a costly hydrogeological study; ensure property values wouldn't decline as a result of a lack of access to water; preserve the senior rights of water users, and; provide for the protection of fish habitats and future water supply. During those months, they also finalized a capital budget that was contingent on the passage of a Hirst fix.
Sadly, in the final days of session, the House majority chose to side with a handful of Seattle Democrats who want to give up our state's water rights and management to special interests than commit to the fair and reasonable plan negotiators had agreed to. Had the bill been allowed to come up for a vote, we believed it would have passed with bipartisan support.
The Hirst decision has created a great deal of uncertainty and concern in rural areas throughout the state and will continue to do so unless lawmakers can come to an agreement on a true, long-term fix. I know I can at least speak for myself and my House Republican colleagues in saying we are committed to continuing our efforts to resolve this devastating ruling once and for all. As conversations over the summer and fall progress, I'll keep you informed.
Legislature passes a McCleary** fix
With the passage of House Bill 2242 this year, the Legislature voted to fully fund K-12 education and end our state's overreliance on local levies to pay for education. In doing so, the Legislature has taken a historic stride in education funding and reform, and has fulfilled it's McCleary obligations.
Some of the highlights of the bill include:
- an increase in state-funded compensation by $6 billion over four years to equip school districts with resources to recruit and retain quality staff and provide students with an equitable education program;
- minimum and maximum salary levels to ensure funding is distributed for teachers in all districts at all levels of experience;
- an automatic, annual COLA, keeping state salary allocations in pace with inflation;
- a reduction in the variation of teacher salaries in order to prevent teacher migration from poor districts to wealthy districts;
- a local levy rate cap to provide relief to taxpayers in property-poor districts and a per-pupil enrichment cap that will increase uniformity in extracurricular options for students; and
- a vigorous reporting and accounting system to ensure separation and tracking of revenues, thus providing transparency in both state funding and local decision-making and to prevent unconstitutional overreliance on local levies.
Some of you may be wondering how these critical investments may impact you. Because the Legislature voted to extend the current levy policy into 2018, every household will see a property tax increase next year. However, between 2019 and 2021, many will see property tax reductions compared to what they would have been paying under current law in those corresponding years.
The table below is just an example of the types of substantial investments school districts can expect to see under House Bill 2242. These are much-needed and overdue funds that will go directly to our schools. My hope is the additional funding will lead to better student outcomes.
|School District||SY 2017-18||SY 2018-19||SY 2019-20||SY 2020-21|
New, two-year operating budget gets signed into law
In June, the Legislature approved a new, two-year operating budget. This bipartisan compromise spending plan:
- makes historic investments in our K-12 system, which now represents more than 50 percent of the budget since the early 1980s;
- aids those providing necessary services to our most vulnerable populations;
- makes crucial investments in mental health that will help transition less-acute individuals out of state hospitals, which will help increase the availability of services for forensic patients; and
- improves the foster care system by enhancing respite care and providing additional options for children who are hardest to place.
All of this and more was accomplished without having to rely on a capital gains tax, carbon tax, or some of the other onerous taxes Democrats and the governor proposed.
However, I ultimately voted “no.” Under this new budget, state spending is slated to increase 14 percent compared to the 2015-17 biennium, and another 14 percent in 2019-21. That's nearly a 30 percent increase over four years! This dramatic increase is unsustainable and relies too heavily on one-time revenue sources and other budget gimmicks. While there's so much good in this spending plan, I couldn't vote to place a larger tax burden on the backs of hardworking Washingtonians.
I work for you 365 days a year
Although the legislative session has officially ended, my job as your state representative continues. I encourage you to continue contacting me with your thoughts, ideas and questions. It's an honor serving you.
Honored to serve you,