Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Unfortunately, the Legislature remains at an impasse on the 2015-17 budget and is now rolling into its second special session. I'm disappointed the majority parties in the House and Senate were unable to come to an agreement on their funding differences. It's imperative we finish our work as quickly as possible and fulfill our duty as elected representatives.
While legislators were in Olympia this week, the House voted on several bills — a school testing reform bill, a measure sometimes referred to as the Trueblood legislation that improves the timelines for competency evaluations of mentally ill individuals, and a few others. These bills now head to the Senate for consideration. In addition, the Legislature passed a $7.6 billion transportation budget to pay for preservation and maintenance of roads, ferry operations, Washington State Patrol, and the Department of licensing.
As we work to complete budget negotiations, I hope you will contact me with your questions, comments or concerns. My office works year-round to answer constituent inquiries. If you encounter a problem or need help navigating state government, please don't hesitate to contact my office. It's my honor to serve you.
The latest revenue forecast and the budget
At the crux of budget disagreements in Olympia are tax increases. House Democrats continue to push for $1.5 billion in new taxes, despite our May revenue forecast showing the state will have $3.2 billion more in revenue for the 2015-17 budget. That's a more than 9 percent increase. It's clear these new taxes are not necessary to craft a sustainable budget that makes critical investments in K-12 education, mental health, higher education, and other important services. Even our Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee said his $1.4 billion tax package is no longer needed in light of our expected inflow of revenue.
Statewide drought declaration
Those in agricultural communities throughout our state are facing the hardships of drought after a mild winter left snowpack levels at a meager 16 percent of normal. Earlier this month, the governor declared a statewide drought emergency and since March, the Joint Legislative Committee on Water Supply During Drought on which I serve has been meeting to assess the budget needs and impact of this drought on water rights. It's imperative that as we negotiate the budget, we secure the funding necessary to address drought statewide so the state can provide the quick response needed to prevent further crop damage.
While this drought places the largest hardship on the Yakima Basin and our friends east of the mountains, communities across the state will be affected. To learn more about how you or your community may be affected, you can contact your local water suppliers, which you can find here. You can also voice your concerns and ask questions by contacting me using the information below.