Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Budget negotiators still have not come to an agreement on the 2015-17 operating budget, so we are now in a second 30-day special session – the 12th special session in the last 10 years. It is disappointing that so little got done in the first special session.
The sticking point has been tax increases. Up until yesterday, House Democrats were pushing for $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes for the operating budget. Their updated budget proposal, released yesterday afternoon, spends hundreds of millions of dollars less, but still calls for a new capital gains tax.
The state has $3.2 billion in new revenue for the 2015-17 budget cycle, according to May's revenue forecast. That's a 9.2 percent increase from the last budget cycle, which is so large, even Gov. Inslee has backed away from supporting major tax increases. If the majority party in the House would come to the same conclusion as the governor, we could wrap up our work tomorrow. Instead, budget negotiations remain at a standstill over tax increases we don't need and taxpayers don't want.
The Senate Republicans' budget shows we can live within our means as a state while making major investments in the priorities of state government. We can invest in schools, provide teachers COLAs, improve our mental health system, reduce tuition, and more – all without raising taxes. We have passed many bills and made significant progress on several issues this year. It's now time to pass the operating and capital budgets and finish our work.
A word on the teacher strikes
As a teacher, I am saddened by the one-day teacher strikes I've seen taking place all over the state. The fact is both the House and Senate budget proposals include at least $1.3 billion in additional education spending, the largest investment in education in more than 25 years. Cost of living adjustments (COLAs), which voters supported and teachers deserve, are funded for the first time since 2009 in both budgets as well.
Below is what's being considered by both chambers in regards to education funding:
- A nearly 18 percent increase in K-12 education funding.
- $1.28 billion to $1.32 billion to satisfy the requirements of the McCleary decision.
- $350 million to $402 million for K-3 class size reductions.
- $180 million to $188 million for all-day kindergarten.
- $741 million for maintenance, supplies and operating costs.
- $232 million to $385 million for K-12 employee COLAs.
- $200 million for K-12 health benefits.
We all want a world-class education system for our students and teachers. I am confident the final budget package will work toward that end.
Please continue to get in touch with me with any comments, questions or concerns you may have. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7820.
It is an honor to serve you.