There are six days left of session, and budget negotiations are unfortunately off to a slow start. If the negotiators from the House and Senate don't come to an agreement on an operating budget before the April 26 session deadline, we will likely go into a costly special session. At issue is the House Democrats' insistence that we need $1.5 billion in new taxes to fund our obligations. The Senate Republicans' budget proposal disproves that notion, as it would fully fund our obligations without raising taxes. Here is a breakdown of both budgets:
I am hopeful the negotiators will come to an agreement on a budget that is good for all Washingtonians. I would like to see the elimination of elements of the House budget that would be harmful, such as a new capital gains tax and the increase in the business and occupation tax on service businesses, which would hurt job creation.
In its McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that basic education must be funded using “regular and dependable sources of revenue.” A capital gains tax is one of the least reliable taxes we could put on the books. At a time when we have $3 billion in additional revenue, raising taxes should be our last resort, not our first option. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and we simply do not need to take more money from hardworking Washingtonians to fund our obligations.
Two of my bills delivered to the governor
Two of my bills, House Bill 1382 and House Bill 1962, recently passed in the Senate. They have since been signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, and have been delivered to the governor for his signature.
House Bill 1382 would prioritize which fire agencies get training money first. With approximately two-thirds of firefighters in the state being volunteers, the bill would help smaller agencies that don't have the manpower to send people to training. It's an extremely important bill for our volunteer firefighters, and is supported by the Washington Fire Commissioners Association.
House Bill 1962 would prohibit county auditors from displaying or releasing Social Security numbers collected when filing the registration information of process servers. Process servers primarily file court papers, retrieve documents, and serve legal documents to people involved in court cases. In the past, some counties have provided process servers' Social Security numbers through public information requests, which is why this bill is needed. House Bill 1962 would bar that from happening unless disclosure is required by federal law.
A number of other bills I've co-sponsored are moving forward in the legislative process:
House Bill 1240 states that the restraint or isolation of any student is permitted only when reasonably necessary to control spontaneous behavior that poses an imminent likelihood of serious harm. The bill would require each school district to adopt a policy providing for the least amount of restraint or isolation appropriate to protect the safety of students and staff under such circumstances.
House Bill 1389 would redefine and expand the term “mobilization” from general firefighting to include other services, or all risk resources, regularly provided by fire
departments, districts and regional fire protection authorities. The bill also states that when a mobilization is declared and authorized, all risk resources regularly provided by fire departments, fire districts and regional fire protection authorities, including those of the host fire protection authorities, must be deemed as mobilized.
House Bill 1671 would help save lives by increasing access to prescription drugs that combat heroin overdoses. The bill clarifies the law to authorize first responders – or any other person that could help – to prescribe, dispense, distribute and deliver opioid overdose medications to a person at risk of experiencing a drug overdose. It's a good bill that will save lives, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor.
The latest on transportation
Earlier this month, the House passed a $7.7 billion maintenance-level transportation budget — $3.9 billion for capital projects, $2.3 billion for operating costs, and $1.5 billion for debt service payments. Unfortunately, an amendment providing funding for the Belfair Bypass was rejected by the majority party. Another amendment that was rejected would have removed $17 million for transit mitigation tied to Bertha, the tunnel boring machine that has experienced a variety of costly problems. The city of Seattle should bear any additional costs relating to the project, as was promised when this project was approved.
The House and Senate have both proposed a $15 billion transportation tax package that would fund projects, implement reforms, add numerous vehicle fee increases and raise the state gas tax 11.7 cents over three years. Unfortunately, the package that was approved in the House Transportation Committee last Tuesday offers watered-down reforms and a lack of safeguards to protect taxpayers' money. Negotiations with the Senate are now underway. As with the operating budget, an agreement on a package will need to be reached before our April 26 deadline to avoid going into a special session.
Earlier this month, the House passed a bipartisan capital budget with a 96-2 vote. The capital budget funds the construction and repair of public buildings, as well as other long-term investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers. Senate Republicans have released their own plan, and a final capital budget will also need to be negotiated between the two chambers.
Hope for the Shelton Pool
I was happy to hear last week that Shelton High School and Mason General Hospital are in discussions regarding a partnership that would help us bring back and maintain the Shelton Pool. KMAS reported last Wednesday:
“Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis made an announcement and a request to the Board regarding the Shelton High School Pool at the start of Tuesday's regularly scheduled school board meeting. Jarvis said he was pleased to announce he has been engaged in negotiations with Mason General Hospital CEO Eric Moll for possible collaboration regarding the Shelton Pool.
“The negotiations will be continuing and are subject to legal advice and guidance. CEO Moll and Jarvis requested a joint meeting of the two boards (Mason General Hospital and the School Board) on April 28th, 4:00PM at the PUD3 facility's Skookum Room to hear their proposal.”
My latest KMAS interview
Every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m., I am on KMAS Radio for a live interview with Dale Hubbard and Jeff Slakey to discuss the latest happenings in the Legislature. Click here to listen to my latest interview with them.
I would like to hear from you regarding any ideas, concerns or questions you may have. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or giving me a call at (360) 786-7966.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.