Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today marks the 82nd day of the 105-day legislative session. Last week, I briefly shared with you the House Democrats' 2015-17 operating budget proposal, which you can review here. Budget negotiations are in full swing, and as we work to pass the operating, capital and transportation budgets so the Legislature can finish on time, you can expect to see some late nights on the House floor.
Last night, the House passed the 2015-17 operating budget on a 51-47 party-line vote, and the capital budget 96-2. To stay up-to-date on the latest floor activity, click here.
The second fiscal committee cutoff of session is Tuesday, April 7. That means bills from the opposite chamber must pass their fiscal committees by that time, or are deemed “dead” for the legislative session. But as it was for the first series of cutoffs, bills considered necessary to implement the budget can survive the April 7 deadline.
Senate releases operating budget plans
On Tuesday, the Senate released its 2015-17 operating budget proposal. Unlike the House Democrats' proposal, this budget invests in and maintains important programs and makes the largest investment in K-12 education the Legislature has seen in the past 30 years, all without raising taxes. You can read more about this budget proposal's highlights here.
The Senate's proposal was given a public hearing earlier this week in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Both this and the House proposal will likely undergo many changes before the final gavel falls on April 26. As changes are made during these final weeks, I'll be sure to keep you updated. If you want to learn more about the budget on your own, you can find all related documents here.
An update on my legislation
This session, I sponsored a bill that would allow the city of Lynden to get water rights credit for cow water. That companion to that bill passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources yesterday and now moves to the Rules Committee to await floor consideration.
You can find all of my sponsored legislation this session here.
Telephone town hall in review
Tuesday evening, Sen. Ericksen, Rep. Van Werven and I hosted a telephone town hall for residents of Whatcom County to ask us questions and receive an update on the 2015 legislative session. At one point we had more than 600 people on the call! Thank you to everyone who participated.
During the community conversation, we asked three survey questions. Here are the results:
Q1: House Democrats released their 2015-17 operating budget proposal last, calling for a 5% capital gains tax among other tax increases. Given the state's expected 9% increase in revenue for this budget, do you support this proposed tax?
Yes – 18.8%
No – 67.0%
Undecided – 14.1%
Q2: Do you support a statewide increase of the minimum wage to $12 per hour?
Yes – 28.2%
No – 50.3%
Only if it includes other policy changes – 20.1%
Undecided – 1.3%
Q3: Over the next two years, residents of Washington state will pay $3 billion more in taxes than they did over the last two years, a 9% increase. But there are proposals for spending that would far exceed that amount and require the state to raise taxes. Do you believe:
The state should raise taxes to enable record growth in state spending? – 10.8%
The state should live within its means? – 58.3%
The state should return some of that $3 billion to working families? – 30.9%
Although session is coming to a close, it's important that I continue to hear from you. If you have a question, comment or concern, please don't hesitate to contact me using the information at the end of this email.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you.