We are nearing the end of the 2012 regular session with less than one week remaining. The majority of my time is now spent voting on the House floor. This week we voted into the evening every night. However, because of this proactive schedule, I am optimistic that we will be done on time – with no need for a special session. The main topic of debate that would keep us here longer is the budget. You can watch live floor debate in both the House and Senate at www.tvw.org.
This week the House voted 53-45 to pass a 2012 supplemental operating budget (House Bill 2127). I voted “no” several reasons. The main objection I have is this budget does not offer citizens stability and security, nor does it address priorities. Whereas, last week, House Republicans released a budget proposal that demonstrated how we could address priorities without increasing costs on hard working taxpayers. During the floor debate surrounding the budget, Republicans tried multiple times to have the majority party amend its proposal and utilize our approach. Unfortunately, they weren’t interested in adopting our ideas.
You may have already read about how the two budgets are different. A recent Seattle Times article stated, “Accounting gimmicks are a big part of state House budget moves.” And another Seattle Times article announced, “Washington's House Democrats' budget irresponsibly pushes problems ahead.” It’s clear that few people think highly of the Democrat budget. However, I’d like to explain just a few of the differences myself.
Our plan of action has always focused on funding the priorities of government first. As I have written previously, these priories are: education, public safety, and protection of our most vulnerable. We consider the most vulnerable to be the developmentally disabled, elderly, mental health patients, and children.
The Democrat budget clearly does not prioritize education because it delays more than $400 million in school and levy equalization payments. Essentially, their budget shuffles debt to the future and expects others to pay at a later date. These shifts are just gimmicks. This is not a sustainable way to balance a budget.
We have yet to see what the final spending plan will look like as the Senate budget only passed tonight. But my fellow Republicans and I will fight for the priorities government and to protect the most vulnerable citizens of our state. I will continue to keep the needs and values of Whatcom County at the forefront of my thoughts as we vote in the coming days.
I have received many calls and e-mails about the Discover Pass. The goal of the pass was to generate revenue for our parks, however as of December 2011, it generated 58 percent less than expected. Additionally, many residents statewide had complaints about the confusion the pass created.
Common questions seem to be when a pass is needed and on how many cars can it be used. House Bill 2373 fixes some of the concerns, and clears up the duplicative pass issues. Unfortunately, the legislation would also add more fees on Washingtonians, such as a $10 surcharge on Recreational Vehicle (RV) registration, even if an RV owner does not use state parks. The bill would also add more vehicles to the list of those subject to the $5 "opt-out" donation program on license tab renewals.
I voted “no” on the bill because I believe the additional fees are unnecessary. Hard working taxpayers already contribute to funding the park system. The bill passed 54 – 44 , however, the bill did not make it out of Senate before cut-off today. It could still pass if it is found necessary to implement the budget next week. I will keep you posted on the progress of the Discover Pass.
I am looking forward to Sine Die on March 8, which is the end of the 2012 session. The best thing for all citizens would be for us to accomplish what we set out to do without costing the public more for us to stay in Olympia for a special session.
Many of you have come from our district to see me while in Olympia. I’ve appreciated all your visits and meetings. I realize that I was unable to meet with everyone who visited due to the hectic and busy schedule of the session. However, after session I would be happy to meet with you if I missed you during your trip to Olympia. Please give my Olympia office a call at (360) 786-7854, or send me an e-mail, to set up a time.
It’s an honor to represent you.
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