Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Friday, Feb. 19, Sen. Doug Ericksen, Rep. Van Werven and I hosted a town hall meeting in Lynden. Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out on a Friday afternoon to meet with us. I encourage anyone who was not able to attend to reach out to my office with any questions, ideas or concerns.
The community conversation was respectful and productive, and we covered a variety of topics from Alcoa, to oil train safety, agriculture issues, K-12 funding and more.
There's only a few days left of the 2016 legislative session, and I'm looking forward to being back home so I can meet with folks directly in Whatcom County. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Thursday, March 10.
Brief update on my legislation
House Bill 2384 provides a technical fix to the revenge-porn legislation I passed last year (House Bill 1272), and defines exempt mobile phone providers from criminal liability in revenge-porn-related cases. The legislation received unanimous support in the House and Senate.
House Bill 2503 would prevent water-sewer districts from prohibiting the use of multipurpose fire sprinkler systems for single-family homes or townhouses. Use of these sprinklers is an efficient means to connect to potable water, and reduces costs for home-builders and developers. This bill unanimously passed the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. The Senate version of this bill has already passed both chambers.
House Bill 2634 would allow the Dairy Products Commission to conduct research related to dairy nutrients as commercial products. This bill passed both chambers unanimously.
Bills approved by both chambers now move on to the governor's desk for his signature.
Supplemental budgets and the latest revenue forecast
Last week, the House and Senate rolled out supplemental operating, capital and transportation budget proposals. You can find all documents relating to these proposals on this website.
So far, I have concerns with the proposed supplemental operating budget and am hoping we see a more balanced approach from the Senate. For starters, the current proposal nearly drains the Budget Stabilization Account, our rainy day fund. It also calls for $120 million in tax increases for 2015-17, many of which have been rejected in the past. This is not the time to be raising taxes.
The latest revenue forecast shows the state is down $67 million in taxes for this biennium, and more than $440 million projected for the 2017-19 biennium. Even though our state has experienced growth of about 10 percent per budget since the recession, our economy remains fragile. We must be careful with our tax policy, and this latest forecast proves that. Bottom line: asking for tax increases at this time is not healthy for our communities, especially as we've seen a number of businesses and jobs leave Whatcom County the past few years. Neither is it wise to drain our rainy day fund with a storm on the horizon.
Budget gimmicks are not going to support healthy growth in our economy.
I hope the final budget plan will be balanced and bipartisan, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done in these final days to get us to that point.
Waterfront cleanup projects
It's important for both our state's environmental health and economic vitality to ensure toxic cleanup projects receive appropriate funding. Unfortunately, and despite my opposition, state lawmakers have diverted money away from the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) account several times in recent history. (MTCA money is partially responsible for funding cleanup projects throughout the state. The act was created by initiative in 1988 and is intended to address toxic threats.) Since 2009, the Legislature has diverted more than $250 million from MTCA to the state general fund in order to fund other budget items throughout the state. Doing so threatens the future of slated waterfront cleanup projects, and that is unacceptable.
I'm encouraged by the House proposed capital budget this year, which would allow the account to return to viability. MTCA-funded cleanups have not only removed thousands of tons of harmful chemicals and toxic waste from the environment, but they provide good short-term jobs to benefit our economy and strengthen our communities.
Thank you for subscribing to receive these email updates. Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns about anything mentioned in this update, or any issue before the state Legislature. It's an honor serving you.