Dear Friends and Neighbors:
As the leader for House Republicans, I am privileged to have a seat at the table alongside Rep. Bruce Chandler, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, who has been our primary representative in the negotiations for a 2015-17 state operating budget. While there is much frustration that we are nearly a month-and-a-half beyond the end of the regular legislative session which concluded April 24 without a budget agreement, we and Senate Republicans are hopeful progress can be made each day in our talks with majority House Democrats.
While I can't get into specifics about our budget talks, I wanted to take a few minutes to provide an update and to let you know I believe there will be a number of things we can celebrate when a bipartisan budget agreement comes together.
Republicans in both the House and Senate have been working to protect the public from tax increases. The May revenue forecast shows the state will take in an additional $3.2 billion in tax revenues -- a 9.2 percent increase over the last budget cycle!
Washington state does not need new tax increases. No one will get everything they want in this new budget. However, there's plenty of money to satisfy the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision, make major investments in our schools, including teacher cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), fund collective bargaining agreements, improve our mental health system and reduce college tuition -- all without higher taxes.
SALARIES OF TEACHERS, STATE EMPLOYEES
Although many teachers have received step increases (periodic increases in a employee's rate of basic pay from one step of the grade of his or her position to the next higher step of that grade), it's true there have been no state COLAs since 2008. We trust teachers with our children and expect them to do huge things. They and our other hard-working state employees will be getting a COLA in the new budget.
You can look up the yearly salary of any state public employee, including teachers and legislators here. You can also search salaries of state employees for 2012 and 2013 on The News Tribune's website here.
MY SALARY AND BENEFITS
I also want to be very candid about my salary as a state legislator. Most legislators are paid $42,106 per year and that amount has been the same since 2008, plus benefits. My pay was the same until I was appointed in 2013 as the minority leader for House Republicans and received a 9.5 percent increase with the new position. My current salary is $46,106 per year.
Legislators are also considered to be state employees, so I receive health insurance coverage. The state's contribution to my health insurance is $662 per month or $7,944 per year. The state also matches an employee's 7.65 percent salary deduction for Social Security and Medicare taxes. The state pays about $40 per month to the Department of Labor and Industries for industrial insurance coverage, which is matched by an employee payroll deduction.
Legislators may also choose to participate in the state's pension system in which the state contributes 9.21 percent of salary. I have declined participation in these retirement benefits, and will receive no pension or retirement income from this job.
CITIZENS' COMMISSION, NOT LEGISLATORS, SET OUR SALARIES
Contrary to what some people might think, legislators do not set their own salaries. This is done by an independent citizens' commission. In 1986, the state Legislature approved a bill to create the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials subject to voter approval of a proposed constitutional amendment. House Joint Resolution 49 amending the state constitution passed on Nov. 4, 1986. Since then this independent citizen commission has set the salaries of elected officials in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of state government.
Last month, the commission voted for an 11 percent raise for state legislators. I had no input in that process and this is not a proposal that would come before the Legislature for a vote.
The process is entirely different from the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., which determines its own pay. See information about that here. I am a state representative, not a member of the U.S. Congress. My salary is set by the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials. Learn more about the commission here.
I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING THE U.S. OPEN
I am very glad that Chambers Bay is the site chosen for the U.S. Open golf championship that begins Monday in Pierce County. It will be a great boost for our state's economy.
State ethics rules generally prohibit legislators from accepting gifts worth more than $50. However, the state Legislative Ethics Board said in April state lawmakers could accept one complimentary U.S. Open ticket (valued at $110) from Pierce County if they attend a presentation hosted by the county. Pierce County has offered around 45 tickets to state lawmakers. I have declined the ticket and I will not be attending any portion of the event.
I hope this e-newsletter has been informative about the budget negotiations and benefits expected for teachers, students and state employees, while protecting taxpayers and keeping the state budget balanced. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. My contact information is below. Thank you!
In your service,
39th Legislative District
(360) 786-7967 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000