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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now ending the 30-day special session and heading into another 30-day session in order to come to agreement on the next two-year state operating budget. Most legislators have not spent much time in Olympia as only the budget negotiators and certain members of leadership are at the Capitol. However, we're all in Olympia for a few days this week to vote on legislation, including the state transportation budget (NOT a gas tax package) and a high school student assessment bill (EHB 2214).
Since the end of the regular session in April, I've been busy touching base with the community and traveling around the district. I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony in Concrete for their new fire station, which included burgers with the firefighters and community members afterwards. I spoke about the session, the budget and education funding to a Block Watch group in Sultan – you can read about that here. I met with Monroe city leaders and volunteers to discuss meeting the needs of children who need mentors and I advocated to the Skagit Council of Governments for more citizen involvement on the advisory board.
In addition, I'll be joining Mike Newman (Realtor and Water Rights Advocate) and Dr. Gary Clancey from the Skagit County Citizens Alliance for Property Rights on Thursday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m. to give a presentation on water rights and property rights. The event will take place at the American Legion Hall in Concrete, 45952 Main St. It is free, light refreshments will be served and it's open to the public. I'd love to see you there!
As you may recall, the main difference between the House Democrat and Senate Republican budgets is about $1.5 billion in new taxes wanted by House Democrats. This is on top of the $3 billion more in tax collections over the next two years! I certainly do not support more tax increases and information released last week from the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will hopefully break the budget stalemate and lead us to a quick budget agreement during the next 30 days. According to the new budget forecast, our state is looking at an increase of $106 million for the ongoing 2013-15 budget cycle and an increase of $309 million for the upcoming 2015-17 budget cycle. Again, this is on top of the additional $3 BILLION in new tax collections for 2015-17! We don't need tax increases to take care of our obligations, protect the most vulnerable, protect our communities and educate our students.
Funding Education/Teacher Strikes
Teachers from several school districts around the state are participating in one-day walkouts, putting unnecessary burdens on parents and students who should be in school. Unfortunately, the teachers are being duped by union leadership instead of reading the facts for themselves. The Senate and House budget proposals would reduce class sizes, fund all-day kindergarten, provide teacher raises, and fully fund MSOC (materials, supplies and operating costs). Both proposals would provide around $1.3 billion for the McCleary decision and bring education spending – as a percentage of the overall state budget – to levels not seen since the 1970s and 80s.
As the Seattle Times editorial board said: “Instead of striking, teachers across Washington state should be celebrating… The union, which is consistently one of the biggest spenders in Olympia, knows the lobby game. It should keep its lobbying efforts there, and leave kids out of it.”
Or, as The Olympian, one of the state's most liberal papers, said: “On what planet do teachers expect lawmakers to come up with an 'extra' $2.1 billion in new revenues to pay for the union-sponsored initiative 1351, which mandated smaller classroom sizes? Voters approved it last fall, apparently without understanding the price tag. Lawmakers are already trying to increase school funding by about $1.4 billion in response to a Supreme Court ruling.”
Here is a chart showing the growth of average teacher salaries compared to the median household income (oftentimes, more than one person working per household).
As you can see, they are not growing at the same rate. This represents a growing burden on taxpayers. As a former teacher myself, I understand the work that teachers do and the extra hours they put in. They are professionals and deserve our respect and to be compensated appropriately. But the fact is, unless you live in King County, the recession continues to impact most Washingtonians. Our families are struggling as unemployment and underemployment remain an all-too-common theme for many taxpayers.
Stay in touch
I encourage you to stay in touch during the special session and upcoming interim. Even though legislators won't be in Olympia after we wrap up budget negotiations there are a number of ways to stay informed about our state government and Legislature. Here is a list of a few ways to keep updated on what is happening throughout the year.
- Capitol Buzz – A daily electronic clip service of news stories from all daily newspapers around the state, provided by House Republicans. Click here to subscribe.
- The Current – An online publication, sent out weekly during the session and every couple weeks during the interim, from House Republicans to keep you updated on the legislative process and the caucus. Click here to subscribe.
- Check out my Web site – www.representativeelizabethscott.com From this link, you can get more information about me, the bills I've sponsored and view my email updates and news releases.
- Photos – Access my photo gallery here.
- Legislature's Web site – You can get bill reports, committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov.
Also, please let me know if you are in need of a speaker for your church group, civic organization or community meeting. Part of my job serving you is to make sure I'm available and keeping you updated on what's happening with your state government. I'm always happy to attend your function to talk, listen and answer questions.
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7816 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000