Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I share with you good news from Olympia this week as legislators successfully avoided government shutdown and passed a bipartisan 2015-17 operating budget. Here are some of the budget highlights:
- $1.3 billion investment in K-12 education to help meet the Legislature's constitutional obligation outlined in McCleary.
- Cost-of-living raises for teachers and public employees.
- Tuition reductions at four-year and two-year institutions.
- Improvements to the mental health system based on recent court mandates.
- Increased funding to long-term care and home care workers.
The 2015-17 capital budget also passed and was signed by the governor. Projects include a new water pipe between the Darigold plant and the Nooksak River,
What's not such good news is the Legislature also passed a $16.8 billion transportation package that includes a 12-cent gas tax increase in addition to other fees. I voted 'no' on this package.
While our transportation system is in need of improvements, I can't justify asking taxpayers, many which have contacted me throughout session opposing this tax increase, to pay significantly more at the pumps with little return-on-investment in the long run. With major cost overruns on Seattle's Bertha, failed pontoons on SR 520 and a number of other blunders, we need to restore accountability at WSDOT before we give them more money.
Even though I serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which hears legislation related to the budget, I am not a budget negotiator. But some would say I was 'instrumental' in getting all sides to reach a budget deal. Late one evening last week, I carried my violin from my apartment across the street to the Capitol Campus and played a few songs for the press corps awaiting the governor's press conference announcing a budget agreement. You can watch the video here.
|Wildfire dangers amid droughtWith extremely low snowpack this year and an ongoing drought, I want to encourage everyone to stay safe and be responsible this summer. According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, 85 percent of Washington's wildfires are manmade, and of the 263 wildfires reported last week, all but one were human caused. Thankfully the Stewart Mountain fire has been contained since late last week.If you want to learn more about active wildfires in Washington, click here.|
Since the Legislature entered into special sessions, I've been commuting between district and Olympia. With this sine die, I can now be in district full-time (for the most part). I encourage you stay in touch throughout the summer and fall months by calling my office at (360) 786-7854 or emailing me at Vincent.Buys@leg.wa.gov with your questions, concerns and ideas. If you want me to speak at an event, schedule a tour or meet with me, contact my office. My legislative aide, Amanda, will be happy to assist you.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you.