Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Twenty days into a special session, the Legislature finally adjourned for the year March 29. Ultimately, philosophical differences on the budget between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate sent us into overtime. The governor attempted to spur negotiations by vetoing 27 of 37 bills, most of which passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, but that tactic was unsuccessful.
During legislative action March 29, the Legislature overrode those vetoes and passed supplemental operating and capital budgets. These budgets aren't perfect and it's clear compromises were made, but these budgets stuck to the true meaning of a supplemental year, which is to only make small adjustments based on emergencies and caseload forecasts.
Here are some of the 2016 supplemental operating budget highlights:
- $190 million emergency funding out of the Budget Stabilization Account (rainy day fund) for wildfire recovery from last summer's wildfires.
- $4.2 million to keep charter schools open.
- $40 million for court-mandated mental-health system improvements.
- $4.3 million for health home services.
- $8 million to backfill costs to keep tuition reduced at state colleges and universities.
We did all of this and more without major tax increases like the House Democrats and governor proposed, and balanced the budget over four years as constitutionally required.
In addition, we worked hard to secure funding for the Pepin Creek Realignment Project in Lynden ($400,000) and engineering monies for the Kendall Columbia Valley Trail ($77,000).
Besides the supplemental budgets, we accomplished a lot this session, including:
- Setting up a framework for K-12 education funding for next year in order to comply with the state Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary ruling;
- Saving public charter schools;
- Helping address the state's teacher shortage;
- Giving pay raises to Washington State Patrol troopers;
- Establishing the Washington Cybercrime Act; and
- much more!
Help for Alcoa
The 2016 supplemental operating budget set aside $3 million for on-site worker training at Bellingham Technical College (BTC) to alleviate some problems caused by the idling of Alcoa Intalco's Ferndale plant. Additional workers are now needed at the refinery because some employees have entered early retirement, and these funds secured in the budget will allow BTC to train workers for those temporary positions. Rep. Luanne Van Werven and I released a joint statement about this funding in the budget, which you can read here.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, Rep. Luanne Van Werven and I are still focusing our efforts on doing what we can to keep the plant fully operational. We are working with Alcoa, Bonneville Power Administration, and others in hopes of finding a solution to save the nearly 600 jobs at risk in Whatcom County.
Buys bills signed by the governor
Two of my bills were signed into law last week.
House Bill 2384 is just a small fix to the revenge-porn legislation I passed last session. This bill simply defines exempt mobile telecommunications providers from liability.
House Bill 2634 will allow the Washington Dairy Products Commission to conduct research related to dairy nutrients as commercial products. This bill is an important investment in discovering the economic advantages of dairy nutrients and how nutrients could be effectively used for crop fertilization and energy production.
These bills received overwhelming support, and I appreciate the hard work of members and stakeholders who helped move them through the process.
WWU president selected
Congratulations to Western Washington University in their selection of a new president, Sabah Randhawa. I look forward to continuing our work for improving higher education and working with the new president as he transitions to his new role. You can read more about him in this article from The Bellingham Herald here.
Hearing from you
Although session has ended, it's important I continue to hear from you during the interim. Remember, I am your legislator year round. I encourage you to contact my office with your questions, ideas and concerns. My direct contact information is below.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you!