Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're now entering the homestretch of the 2015 session. Most of our time now is spent on the House floor debating and voting on Senate bills that have made it through the committee process. This is always an odd time of session where there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” going on. We'll rush to the House floor to vote on 20 or 30 bills in a flurry of activity, then retreat back to our caucus room where we wait for the next list of bills to come over from the majority party. We then talk about those bills, debate their merits internally, and then rush out to the floor again.
Our “dead/alive” bill list is continually updated. You can click here to look at some of the major issues.
I want to again thank those of you who were able to join Rep. Dan Kristiansen and me last week for our second telephone town hall. Participation was excellent once again. It's a joy to hear from so many of you and a privilege to continue to serve you in Olympia.
I also want to thank those who took my online survey. I appreciate hearing your thoughts, concerns and opinions. As promised, here are the results:
1) What issue is most important to you?
State spending – 42.96%
Jobs/The Economy – 32.59%
Other – 10.37%
Transportation – 6.67%
K-12 Education – 3.7%
Health Care – 2.22%
Environment – 1.48%
2) The governor is proposing a carbon tax on large employers like Boeing, and also on many large energy companies to pay for transportation and education. Knowing this will most likely raise the price of certain goods and services as well as energy prices, would you support the governor's plan?
YES – 5.84%
NO – 86.86%
Not sure, need more information – 7.3%
3) The idea of a 12 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase is being floated around Olympia. Are you in favor of this gas tax increase to pay for new transportation projects?
YES – 7.41%
NO – 85.93%
Maybe, but only with 39th LD projects and reforms – 6.67%
4) There is talk of a possible $4.5 billion property tax increase to help pay for much-needed public works projects. Would you support paying higher property taxes to fund public works projects?
YES – 4.41%
NO – 83.82%
Maybe, but only for projects in my area – 11.76%
5) With all we're hearing in the press recently about digital privacy, identity theft and digital hacking, how important is it to strengthen digital privacy laws in this state?
Very important – 48.53%
Somewhat important – 29.41%
Haven't really thought about it – 12.5%
Not very important – 8.09%
Not important at all – 1.47%
6) Instead of a gas tax increase, there is talk of a “vehicle miles travelled” tax, or “road fee,” to fund transportation projects. Would you support this road fee to fund transportation?
YES – 5.84%
NO – 81.75%
Not sure, need more information – 12.41%
7) Regarding I-594 and the legal transfer of firearms, what should the Legislature focus on?
Muster the votes to repeal it – 67.41%
Do nothing – it's the law – leave it – 8.15%
Try to send it back to voters w/more information – 12.59%
Fix it piecemeal as issues come up – 11.85%
The House Democrats recently released their 2015-17 operating budget proposal. In a nutshell, it raises taxes by $1.5 billion and increases state spending from $33.8 billion (2013-15) to $38.9 billion! That's a 15 percent increase! When you look at the required four-year outlook, their budget leaves a paltry $4 million in reserves for the 2017-19 biennium and raises spending to $43 billion! That's almost a $10 billion spending increase in just six years.
Needless to say, my House Republican colleagues and I believe this to be unsustainable, unpredictable and unwise. I'm not about to support a budget that takes more tax dollars from struggling workers and families. With about $3 billion more in tax collections expected in this budget cycle (nearly a 9 percent increase) there should be plenty of tax dollars to fund education, keep our communities safe, and take care of the priorities expected of us by the citizens back home.
What's even more galling about their proposal is the fact that they declined (for political reasons) to take votes on – and pass – the tax increases necessary to fund their budget. It was just a wish list of spending. So, every House Democrat got to go back to their special interest groups and say, “See, we tried to increase your funding or expand your program.” But they refused to put their money where their mouths are and declined to take votes on their massive tax increases. Perhaps this is cowardice; perhaps it's just politics as usual. Either way, it's poor leadership. I joined with all of my House Republican colleagues and voted no on this budget proposal.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus also passed their budget proposal. While I don't agree with everything it contains, it appears to be a much more balanced approach. It does NOT contain the $1.5 billion in tax increases like the House Democrat budget. And, for the first time since the 1970s, it actually reduces college tuition by 25 percent! It also leaves more in reserves to account for economic ups and downs.
Now that both chambers have passed their budgets, I expect negotiations to intensify. With just over two weeks left in the 2015 session, there is still plenty of time for a budget compromise to be reached and for us to finish on time. There is no reason for a special session, which costs additional tax dollars.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved. Please keep the phone calls, e-mails and letters coming. I appreciate your input as I make decisions on your behalf in Olympia.
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7816 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000