Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Lawmakers are back in Olympia this week for "Interim Committee Assembly." This event normally happens each year about a month-and-a-half before the legislative session begins in January to brief legislators on emerging issues in their respective committees.
What are your priorities for the 2016 session?
The 2016 session will begin Jan. 11. It is scheduled for 60 days. As we prepare for the coming session, I would like to know about your priorities for the Legislature for 2016. So I invite you click on the link and answer a few questions on my online survey:
No two legislative sessions are ever alike. There are always different issues to face and challenges to address for our state. This year, I see at least three emerging issues as we prepare for the 2016 session. Here's an update on those issues below.
Should you have any questions, comments or suggestions on these or other legislative issues, I invite you to contact my office. You will find my contact information below at the end of this e-mail update.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!
In your service,
At least three issues are emerging that could well dominate the 2016 session: Education funding (including levy reform), charter schools, and Initiative 1366.
Education and the state Supreme Court
Despite the Legislature appropriating historic investments in K-12 education during the 2015 session, the state Supreme Court said it still falls short of the McCleary requirements. The court is concerned that schools rely too heavily on local property tax levies for a gap in salaries and funding not provided by the state.
Many believe that it is time for levy reform. A solution being considered is known as “levy swap,” in which local maintenance and operations levies would be lowered while increasing the state portion of the property taxes. This would create a “revenue-neutral” swap of state property tax for local levies.
Opposition to the levy swap comes primarily from areas with rich property values, such as Seattle and Bellevue, because those areas could end up paying more for property taxes while areas with lower property values would likely pay less under a levy swap.
Many Democrats would rather support a capital gains income tax. Voters have rejected a state income tax by 64 percent.
Republicans and Democrats are seeking solutions that would allow charter schools to operate in Washington, following the state Supreme Court’s ruling in September that charter schools are unconstitutional. The court reasoned that charters are not truly public schools because they aren’t governed by elected boards, therefore they cannot receive public funding.
There’s concern that same court reasoning could also de-fund Running Start, tribal compact schools, schools for the deaf and blind, and any other public school program that isn’t directly supervised by an elected board.
Will Initiative 1366 be invalidated by the courts?
In November, voters approved Initiative 1366. The measure would cut the state retail tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent on April 15, 2016, unless the Legislature sends a constitutional amendment to the ballot proposing a two-thirds approval in the House and Senate for tax increases or with voter approval.
If the sales tax reduction becomes effective, it would result in an estimated state revenue decrease of $1.6 billion for the current biennium, $3 billion for the next, and $3.4 billion for the 20-21 biennium. That could have a significant impact on state services.
The initiative, however, has been challenged in the King County Superior Court. The Legislature's response will largely depend upon whether or not the court upholds or invalidates the measure.
Contact me with questions, comments or suggestions
Here's my contact information:
39th Legislative District
(360) 786-7967 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000