Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature's first 30-day special session ended Thursday, May 28 without an operating or capital budget agreement. We are now four days into the second special session.
On May 18 we received some good news in an updated revenue forecast by the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council that should push us closer to a budget agreement and ending the session.
The council projects Washington state to get an additional $106 million for the ongoing 2013-15 budget cycle and an increase of $309 million for the upcoming 2015-17 budget cycle.
Washington will now having nearly $3.2 billion more in tax revenue – more than a 9 percent increase – for the next budget cycle.
Unfortunately, the hang up continues to be that a few legislators do not think $3.2 billion is enough. They want new or increased taxes.
New or increased taxes are not needed. Even the governor has backed off from his original budget and tax proposal in December. See Inslee says $1.4 billion tax package no longer needed.
I believe we can make significant funding increases to K-12 education, increase teacher and state employee compensation, reduce college tuition, and maintain our social safety net within existing revenue.
This is not a good time to raise taxes on working families. Our focus needs to be on creating jobs and easing the financial burdens on Washingtonians. Our economy remains fragile outside of the central Puget Sound region. The unemployment rate for King County is 3.3 percent and 3.6 percent from Snohomish. Here is the unemployment rate for the counties I represent or partially represent:
- Klickitat 6.6 percent;
- Skamania 7.1 percent;
- Yakima 7.7 percent; and
- Clark 6.3 percent.
I was recently recognized for my work on veterans legislation by Commanding General Roger Flygare of the Association of Washington Generals. I was presented a framed copy of House Bill 2040, my “One Business, One Vet” legislation, that was signed into law by the governor on April 22. To watch a brief video about the presentation by Commanding General Flygare and HB 2040, click “One Business, One Vet.”
I am also working on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) legislation and looking into other legislation that may benefit our veterans.
Lawmakers did pass a transportation budget for the 2015-17 biennium during the final couple days of the first special session. This budget is the general maintenance and operation budget that has funding for deficient bridges, ongoing projects, our state ferries and the Washington State Patrol collective bargaining agreements. It is not the transportation gas-tax revenue package. That is another issue that is still being debated.
Honored to serve you,