Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It was an honor to be introduced to all of my colleagues on the House floor this week. I'm looking forward to continuing to build relationships on both sides of the aisle as we work together solve the many challenges facing our state. It was also an honor to cast my first votes as a legislator. As I've said, my priority will be supporting legislation that improves our state without putting more of a burden on taxpayers or unnecessarily increasing the size and scope of government.
The latest on budget negotiations
An agreement on the 2015-17 operating budget could not be reached by yesterday's special session deadline, so we are now in a second 30-day special session. This is the 12th special session in the past 10 years, which is very disappointing. House Democrats are insistent upon implementing $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes, including a business and occupation tax increase and a new capital gains tax, so we are currently at an impasse.
Raising taxes should always be the last resort – not the first option. The state is already bringing in an additional $3.2 billion in tax collections for the 2015-17 biennium, so tax increases are not needed in order to create a balanced, sustainable budget that invests in K-12 education, mental health, higher education, and other important services. Even Gov. Inslee, who in December was supporting massive tax increases, has backed off his position due to a “string of good fortune” regarding our economy.
It is now time to finish our work and pass a long-term, sustainable budget that fully funds our obligations without burdening taxpayers.
A word on the teacher strikes
I love teachers, so it saddens me that many of them have been walking out of their classrooms in protest over funding levels, as well as their salary and benefit packages. I believe the one-day strikes we've seen have been detrimental to students and their families, as well as the community. Our teachers certainly deserve fair compensation, and both budget proposals work to provide that with cost of living adjustments.
Here are some facts about the Senate's budget proposal for K-12 education:
- Additional $2.7 billion for K-12 education over previous budget, a more than 18% increase (from $15.3 billion to $18 billion).
- K-12 education makes up 47% of overall state budget, a level not seen in 30 years.
- $1.3 billion to fully fund basic education, addressing McCleary
- Reduces class size in grades K-3, where research shows it to be most effective, prioritizing low-income communities
- Expands to all-day kindergarten statewide, going first to low-income communities
- $230 million for K-12 COLA increases
- $210 million for increased pension costs
- $115 million increase for high quality early learning (Early Start Act) and provides additional 4,000 enrollment slots for Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program
The bottom line is we're doing everything we can as a Legislature to meet the McCleary Supreme Court decision and provide a world-class education system for our students and teachers. The operating budget is still being negotiated, but I am confident the final product will please students, parents, teachers and administrators.
Touring Pullman-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
Before heading to Olympia this week for floor action, I spent last week in district and had the opportunity to take a tour of the corporate headquarters of Pullman-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL). SEL designs, manufactures, and supports products and services ranging from generator and transmission protection to distribution automation and control systems. In essence, the company works to make electric power safer, more reliable, and more economical.
SEL was founded in 1982, and in 2009, became 100 percent employee-owned. They currently employ 3,600 people worldwide. On the left, I'm standing with Manufacturing Supervisor Ron Horton (L) and VP of Global Factories Kevin Fritch (R). I had an excellent time touring the facilities, and thank the company for providing me with the opportunity to do so.
It is important we retain and attract companies like SEL. One of my top priorities as a legislator is working to make Washington the greatest state in the country in which to live, work, start a business and raise a family.
Memorial Day in Ritzville
I spent Memorial Day in Ritzville, attending the city's annual firemen's pancake breakfast, as well as the Memorial Day ceremony at the Ritzville Memorial Cemetery to honor our fallen heroes. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and to meet a lot of new folks as well. We owe our freedom to the men and women who have sacrificed everything for us. That is a debt most of us will never have the opportunity to repay, but what we can do is honor the fallen, serve their families, and continue to look for ways to serve our veterans that are still with us.
Please continue to reach out to me with any comments, questions or concerns you may have. My email address is email@example.com, and my phone number is (360) 786-7942.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.