Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There are 11 days remaining for the 2013 session. We are currently busy voting on policy bills since the final cut-off for votes on the House floor is tonight. After this evening, we will only address bills that are necessary to implement the budget and those that have returned for concurrence. For a quick reminder of how a bill gets passed click here.
For those of you who may not be aware, there are three budgets that the state uses to fund the myriad of things we pay for. There is the operating budget, the capital budget and the transportation budget. To make things even more complicated, the Senate, House and governor all introduce their own spending plans – their version of the best way to fund these budgets.
The operating budget is the largest of the three. When the media refers to “the budget” the operating budget is usually what they mean. To learn more about all three budgets, and how they are connected, you can visit the LEAP website. (Please click the graphic at right for a larger version.)
Last week, the final piece of the budget puzzle fell into place and real budget discussions began. That piece was the House budget; which passed on a near party-line vote.
I voted no on this budget and I am adamantly opposed to it. This budget, written by the majority party, raises taxes by $1.3 billion on already struggling families, depletes the “rainy day fund” and makes no reforms to address out-of-control state spending.
It is clear that the House Democratic budget was not a serious attempt at compromise. Their budget mirrors the governor's “budget outline” closely.
The governor's proposal would make temporary taxes on business permanent. Costly Business and Occupation taxes would continue on: architects, barbers, dentists, janitors, music teachers, real estate agents, school bus operators, veterinarians and more. You can read more about the governor's budget here.
By contrast, the Senate Majority Caucus' initial approach represents many of the same principles and priorities that House Republicans have for the state. The Senate budget focuses on reform and new investments in K-12 education, funding other important priorities and making state government more efficient. You can learn more about the Senate budget here.
I am hopeful that the Senate budget will serve as a model for what is possible; and that both chambers and the governor can find an agreeable compromise.
However, this compromise must not be at the cost of responsibly educating our children or asking more money of taxpayers. The House Republicans have shown, and the Senate has also demonstrated, that a budget that funds our priorities without new taxes is possible.
The House has also been negotiating the capital and transportation budgets. Yesterday, the House passed the transportation budget 68-28. I voted no. The transportation budget must include reforms. Voting no sends a message to the Senate Majority Coalition that change is needed.
It's my hope that the Senate will work to clean up the transportation budget so we can concur on a different plan and do better for our citizens. I look forward to the supporting this budget if some of these positive changes can be made in the compromise transportation budget.
Previous transportation budgets built an off-ramp to Highway 16 in the wrong place, oversaw waste in Washington State Ferries and were responsible for serious problems with the 520 Bridge project. We cannot continue to spend as we have in the past without new efforts to ensure accountability and protection of taxpayers.
The capital budget remains the final budget to be voted on. This budget is the most complicated of the three and is usually the last to be passed. Each of the budgets impact the others to a certain extent; therefore until all three budgets have passed both chambers, nothing is guaranteed.
However, we have been told that this capital budget demonstrates a strong bipartisan effort and is the least likely to have dramatic changes. I am hopeful that important projects within the 42nd District will be funded this year. Some of these projects I have supported include:
- South Whatcom Public Library; and
- Whatcom Community College: learning commons; and
- Whatcom Community College: student recreation center; and
- Upgrades, replacements, and improvements to Whatcom County water district two; and
- Eldridge addition farmland preservation.
Along with supporting new capital projects, it is important to continue funding the maintenance of our existing buildings to achieve the maximum utilization for the dollars we, as a community have already invested.
As the scheduled session comes to an end, I will keep you updated about what is going on in Olympia. I remain positive that a final budget can be worked out within the next 12 days and we can avoid going into special session. In closing, I would like to mention the recent news about our House Republican Leader. Today, Rep. Richard DeBolt announced he was stepping down due to health concerns but plans to finish his two-year term. I hope you will join me in praying for his health, his family and his continued work. I am honored to have served alongside Richard and I have gained irreplaceable leadership insight from him.
If you have any ideas, questions or concerns that you would like to share with me, please contact my office. I am here to be a resource for you.