Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday afternoon, the House Democrats' operating budget proposal was approved on the House floor with a 51-47 party-line vote. Thankfully, that does not mean the discussion is over. Senate Republicans have released their own operating budget proposal, which will likely be passed on the Senate floor next week. After it's approved, the two chambers will come together to negotiate a final budget.
In some ways, the budget proposals are similar. For example, they both fully fund basic education, as is required by our state constitution and the state Supreme Court in the McCleary case. They also both increase mental health funding, including funding for the implementation of Joel's Law, of which I have been a passionate advocate. There are other small similarities, but the reality is the budgets are very different overall.
The House Democrats' budget increases taxes by $1.5 billion at a time when we already have $3 billion in additional revenue for the 2015-17 biennium in which to fund our basic obligations. New taxes in their proposal include:
- An increase in B&O tax rates for service businesses, including child care centers, dry cleaners, janitorial services, home nursing services and residential care facilities.
- A new capital gains tax, which is effectively an income tax. It wouldn't just apply to the sale of stocks and bonds, but also to the sale of investment property, like a summer cabin.
- Repealing the tax exemption on bottled water.
- Eliminating the sales tax deduction on internet sales.
The Senate Republicans' budget does not rely on any new tax increases, and still manages to fully fund the state's basic obligations. I believe that is the right approach, and while their budget isn't perfect, it's much better than what the House Democrats have offered. Negotiations will be intense, and I hope both sides can come together to agree on a sustainable, long-term budget by April 26 so we can avoid a special session.
House Bill 1526 adopted as an amendment
Early on in the session, I introduced House Bill 1526, which would require all aircraft excise tax revenue to be deposited in the aeronautics account, which was the original intent of the account.
Over the years, the Legislature reallocated the funding so 10 percent would go into the aeronautics account, while the rest would go into the general fund. I introduced my bill to make sure the funds would once again be deposited in the aeronautics account – specifically the Department of Transportation's Aviation Airport Aid Grant Program.
I am happy to report that my bill was adopted as an amendment to the House Democrats' operating budget proposal yesterday – one of the few Republican amendments that was adopted.
We have now held two Kids Kaucus meetings. The Kaucus brings members of the public and private sector together to discuss how we can improve the outcomes and effectiveness of programs geared toward helping youth in Washington state. There are too many homeless youth in our state, and too many that struggle with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Additionally, there are too many in foster care waiting for a loving place to call home. These are all very serious issues, and ones where we need to think outside the box and work together toward positive solutions.
Kids Kaucus continues to grow, and word is spreading around the state, which is encouraging. At our last meeting, a woman made the four-hour drive all the way from Tri-Cities to be in attendance.
If you would like to participate in our next meeting, please send me an email at email@example.com, and I would be happy to provide you with more information.
An update on House Bill 1989
House Bill 1989, which would allow municipalities to contract for asset management services for their water storage assets, unanimously passed the state Senate last week.
I sponsored the bill on behalf of the city of Quincy, which is seeking to procure long-term maintenance service contracts for their water storage assets. This is important, because these long-term contracts would provide stability to the city's budgeting. In addition, not having to contract out for each individual service need would save tax dollars.
Before being approved by the full Senate, the bill was amended in the Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee to add emphasis to the voluntary nature of the act. The bill now heads back to the state House for concurrence. If the House approves the amended bill, it will be headed to the governor for his signature.
I always enjoy hearing from you, whether I'm in district or here in Olympia. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (360) 786-7932.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.