Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After spending nearly seven months in session, or 193-days to be exact, the Legislature closed out the third, and final, special session. We passed the two-year operating and transportation budgets, and a bill to put the state in full compliance with the 2012 state Supreme Court McCleary decision. Our work extended into passing a capital budget, which funds construction projects throughout the state, and a resolution to the devastating water-rights dispute known as the Hirst decision. Unfortunately, the Legislature adjourned without a capital budget or a Hirst fix.
You can find more information about this below.
What we accomplished | 2017-2019 Operating budget
After two special sessions, and almost reaching a partial government shutdown, the Legislature reached an agreement on a two-year operating budget. There are things in this budget people will like and things people will dislike. I voted in support of this budget. Here are some of the main highlights of this budget:
- This budget is truly a K-12 budget that takes care of our students, teachers and schools while fulfilling our McCleary obligations. After decades of adding more programs, growing the size of state government and ignoring our education obligations, the Legislature has finally turned the state's paramount duty into our number one priority. K-12 education spending is now more than 50 percent of the operating budget, for the first time since the early 1980's.
- We successfully fought against the regressive and economically damaging tax increases Democrats, and the governor, wanted from the beginning including a capital gains income tax, a carbon tax and a B&O tax on service businesses. We instead ended up with a more fair and equitable property tax system.
- This budget keeps the promises we've made to our most vulnerable by investing heavily in much-needed reforms and increasing services for our mental health and foster care systems.
For more information on the operating budget, please click here.
A McCleary fix
It was clear what the goal of the 2017 session was going to be – to ensure the more than one million schoolchildren throughout our great state receive an equitable and quality education, regardless of where they live. To achieve this goal, lawmakers knew we needed to end the overreliance on local levies to fund public education.
Success and mission accomplished! The Legislature agreed on House Bill 2242, which fully funds K-12 education and addresses our state's increasing reliance on local levies. I voted in favor of this measure. Here are some additional highlights:
- Increases state funded compensation by $6 million over the next four years. This will equip all school districts with ample resources to recruit and retain high-quality staff and provide students with a uniform basic education program.
- Provides minimum and maximum salary levels, ensuring funding is distributed for teachers in all districts, at all levels of experience.
- Provides an automatic, annual COLA.
- Caps local levy rates to provide relief to taxpayers in property-poor districts.
- Caps per-pupil enrichment to increase uniformity in extracurricular options for students.
- Establishes a vigorous reporting and accounting system. This ensures separation and tracking of revenues, thus providing transparency in both state funding and local decision-making.
For more information on House Bill 2242, please click here.
What we didn't accomplish | Capital budget and a Hirst fix
A photo can speak a thousand words, right? Well, this particular photo does. My caucus did not want to conclude the 2017 session without passing a capital budget and fixing the devastating state water-rights issue known as Hirst. We came to work. Unfortunately, the House majority party had a different agenda, and we adjourned without two important items.
Let's start with Hirst. Last October, the state supreme court ruled that Whatcom County had failed to adequately protect and preserve water resources in accordance with the Growth Management Act. What this means? Rural landowners with undeveloped property may never be able to get the proper building permit needed to dig a well, and rightfully build on their land, unless they can prove instream flows won't be harmed.
Lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, are noticing the dire effects this decision could, and will, have on thousands of families across the state. A comprehensive, long-term fix was brought to the table. Actually, the Senate passed this fix four times during session. Unfortunately, the House majority party would not bring the fix to our chamber's floor for a vote.
As the special sessions continued, lawmakers did agree, in good faith, to negotiate a Hirst fix and the capital budget simultaneously after my caucus pointed out the hypocrisy of passing a capital budget that allows government to build while citizen property owners are prevented from building on their own land.
To say the least, I am very disappointed! Republicans came to work to pass both a Hirst fix and capital budget; and yet, we were still forced to walk away without either one. The capital budget funds critical infrastructure projects throughout our district, and the state. A Hirst fix allows rural property owners the right to build on their own land. Both are important and necessary. In the end, we left without completing proper solutions.
Negotiations continue on the Hirst issue. Hopefully we will come up with a solution in the coming weeks. If this is accomplished, lawmakers would be called back for a one-day special session to pass the capital budget and the Hirst fix. Here's hoping and praying the right thing will take place! I will keep you posted and always keep working hard for you!
Remember, I work for you year-round!
My number one task and goal is to serve you, the citizens of the 8th District, and Washington state. You opinion, concerns and ideas are VERY important to me! I hope you take the time to share your questions, comments and concerns with me.
It's an honor to serve you. May God bless you, your families, and these wonderful United States of America! I wish each and every one of you a wonderful Washington day!