Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There's less than one month left of the 2017 legislative session. So far, the House has passed 380 bills and the Senate has passed 296 bills. Right now, House committees are considering Senate bills and Senate committees are considering House bills before floor action resumes in a few weeks.
Major items left on this session's agenda remain to be the three state budgets — operating, capital and transportation. The one that will likely receive the most attention is the new 2017-19 operating budget, which will provide funding for state services and programs, including K-12 education. More about that below.
Tax forecast brings good news, Senate Republicans release budget proposal
Good news! The latest tax forecast indicates the state will have $2.6 billion more to spend in the next budget cycle than we do in the current cycle that ends June 30. That's without any tax increases. The extra money is a result of hardworking taxpayers investing in our state's economy. I hope this revenue growth will deter any appeals for new and increased taxes.
Senate Republicans released their budget proposal earlier this week, and passed the measure on a party-line vote off the Senate floor last night. Their $43 million spending plan prioritizes K-12 education, invests in services for the most vulnerable, and helps keep college affordable — all without new or major tax increases. Government can live within its means so long as spending is prioritized.
House Democrats are expected to release their budget proposal early next week. Like with their education-funding proposal released earlier this session, we're still unsure how they will propose to pay for their spending plan. All we do know is this is the list of tax increases they have previously proposed.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which considers fiscal and budgetary measures, I look forward to hearing House Democrats' proposal next week.
It's important to know that neither proposal will be the final version of the 2017-19 operating budget. Once both bills are considered by their respective chambers, negotiations between all four caucuses can begin on a final budget.
On the horizon
Here's what's coming up next week in the committees I serve on:
House Agriculture and Natural Resources — Next Tuesday, we'll be hearing Senate Bill 5239, legislation that would take us back to the days prior to the Hirst decision and place the onus of determining impairment back on the Department of Ecology. Stay tuned for information about amendments I and fellow House Republicans may offer to further protect household wells.
House Appropriations — As mentioned above, we expect House Democrats to unveil their 2017-19 operating budget proposal early next week. We'll likely hear in the bill in committee next week and may take a vote to pass it off to the House floor.
House Environment Committee — Next Tuesday, we're expected to receive a briefing on King County's West Point Treatment Plant failure, which sent hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater gushing into the Puget Sound in February. A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed along with Reps. Drew MacEwen and David Taylor about the catastrophe. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Additionally, the House Environment Committee heard testimony last week on a bill to implement a carbon tax. Whether this will be voted on by the committee, or included as a funding source for a final budget, has yet to be seen. If you're concerned about carbon pollution, this is not an effective. way to reduce emissions and it will only end up hurting more of our state's citizens and businesses. It penalizes businesses with higher costs even though we live in one of the cleanest manufacturing states in the world. And it ultimately hurts working families. Driving up the cost of producing goods means increasing the price of basic necessities. Proponents seem to feel that taxing individuals for their everyday needs is a solution.
Join your 42nd District legislators for a telephone town hall
On Tuesday, April 4, Rep. Luanne Van Werven and I will be hosting a telephone town hall from 6 to 7 p.m. Participating is easy and can be done from the comfort of your home. All you have to do is call (360) 474-3316 any time during the call.
These telephonic events allow us to reach everyone in the district at once. During the call, we'll provide an update on the 2017 legislative session, and you'll be able to ask questions throughout the program.
Of course, a telephone town hall isn't the only way you can reach out to me. I encourage you to contact my office whenever you have questions, ideas or concerns.
It's an honor serving you.