Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With just three short weeks to go in this legislative session, our state operating budget is still outstanding. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus released its operating budget and a transportation budget April 3. The governor released his budget priorities, including $1.2 billion in tax increases, on March 28.
I outline some of the Senate budget below, but I am very pleased to see a collaborative process between Republicans and Democrats to craft a budget that spends within projected tax collections and prioritizes education.
I remain hopeful we can adjourn on April 28 with strong and responsible bipartisan agreement on a balanced budget that does not rely on new or higher taxes, a transportation budget that fulfills promises and includes accountability and transparency reforms, and a capital budget that takes care of the brick and mortar projects our communities need.
Below is a brief update that I hope you find informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.
In service to you,
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) released its spending plan for the next two-year budget (2013-15) which balances over a four-year period. I was pleased to see the bipartisan cooperation that crafted a budget that funds education, including $1.5 billion for the McCleary ruling enhancements, protects safety-net programs and does not increase taxes.
As I mentioned in previous e-mail updates, tax collections are projected to increase by $2 billion over the two-year budget cycle. The Senate coalition wisely chose to allocate most of those dollars to our state’s “paramount duty” – K-12 education. I am also pleased that those additional funds are tied to reforms aimed at improving student outcomes. Like you, I believe that pouring more money into the same system is unacceptable.
Here are some other highlights of the MCC budget proposal:
- Allocates an additional $306 million to higher education, lowers tuition by 3 percent and adds $19.4 million to the State Need Grant;
- Allocates and additional $14 million for programs serving vulnerable adults;
- Extends several tax incentives to encourage job growth;
- Enacts cost-saving government reforms;
- Leaves an ending-fund balance of $611 million; and
- Prioritizes spending within expected tax collections.
The transparency of the work was unprecedented, in my view. The fact that both sides of the aisle compromised to create this balanced budget is good news for Washingtonians – and I know it is what you expect of your elected leaders.
We are still hearing talk about the need for new and higher taxes to spend even more than the projected $2 billion increase in tax collections. I cannot stress enough how detrimental tax increases would be on our economy. We are right on the bubble of what could be an economic recovery. But, increasing taxes to the point where employers cannot hire, meaning people cannot find work, would burst that bubble. Those in favor of increasing taxes need to talk with the people they will affect the most – the middle class and those barely making it.
There is a lot of negotiating ahead. This is not a final budget but one that will take a lot of twists and turns in the days and weeks ahead, so I ask that you continue to follow this process closely.
Responding to e-mail inquiries, comments
I have received thousands of e-mails regarding Senate Bill 5242, which would give principals more say in which teachers they hire and retain. Many of the e-mails were from locations outside the 9th Legislative District. I have had to sift through the e-mails to find out which ones were from constituents, so I could respond to them.
People I represent take priority, and I want to respond as quickly as possible. To that end, it is very important for writers to include their addresses, or at least their hometown in their correspondence. I appreciate your patience as I work to find those of you from the 9th District who e-mailed me about this legislation.
Education innovators present ideas in committee
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education welcomed Vancouver Skills Center Director Dennis Kampe and Pullman High School math teacher and “MathFire” creator Dr. Matt Fluster to a work session this week. They presented some creative and innovative ways to approach teaching, and specifically, teaching math to our students. Thanks to both of them for making the effort and enlightening our committee.
Watch my legislative video update by clicking on the picture below