Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank all of you who were able to participate in the telephone town hall Rep. Mike Armstrong and I held last Thursday. The participation was great. We had over 3,600 people on the line at one time or another. Also, our “peak attendees” or the most we had on the line at one time was 474 constituents. I know some people prefer the in-person traditional town halls, but this is a fantastic tool to reach a large number of people at once. It comes in handy with a legislative district the size of ours. Questions seem to center around the economy and jobs, but there was also concern about the influence of King County on the new 8th Congressional District.
Special session update
We are in the second week of the special session. The plan is for legislative budgetwriters to meet most of this week to see if some type of agreement can be reached. There are a lot of rumors circulating, which isn't uncommon when not much is happening. There is plenty to speculate on, especially when the key players are meeting in closed quarters.
Among the things we are hearing:
- The majority party is waiting to see if the courts overturn Initiative 1053 decision so they could raise taxes with a simple majority. You can read more about the status of the lawsuit in The Seattle Times story: King County court hears tax initiative lawsuit. Some believe if the court overturns the initiative, it would give the majority a small window to pass some revenue (tax and fee) bills to generate additional monies to make up for the shortfall.
- The governor has come up with a proposal that would keep sales-tax revenue collected on behalf of local governments in the state's general fund longer. That could free up $238 million for spending elsewhere. You can read The Olympian article: Legislature considers new maneuver for fixing budget.
The cities and counties seem to be alright with the governor's proposal and the State Treasurer says it is better method of handling the state's cash. Whether or not this will solve the budget problem we will have to wait and see. The governor's idea was just made public late yesterday. Only more time will tell if this or any of the other things we are hearing hold much merit.
What we do know is that the Senate already passed a budget with a philosophical majority – the 22 Senate Republicans and three Democrats. The support for that budget may have increased since they have adjusted their spending plan, particularly the increase in spending on education and higher education.
If you recall, House Republicans unveiled our own all-priorities budget on Feb. 17 and there are many similarities to the Senate Republican budget. I don't think the Senate Republican budget is perfect but it is something we can certainly work off of and we only need eight votes from across the aisle in the House. That isn't many, but House Speaker Frank Chopp has to be willing to consider all ideas and let philosophical majorities come together. And, his caucus is the only one that doesn't seem to be at the table or willing to budge from their spending plan.
The taxpayers deserve a fiscally responsible budget that addresses our shortfall within existing revenues and doesn't push the debt into future biennia. The votes and interest are there to get out of town if we all work together. My hope is that will happen soon.
Waterville student pages in Olympia
Wyatt Mires, a freshman at Waterville High School, served as a page Feb. 27–March 2 in the Washington State House of Representatives. We are at a very important time in politics at all levels and the more students stay involved, the better understanding they will have of the process and issues. I was happy to sponsor Wyatt and pleased he made the effort to come to Olympia. He is the 15-year-old son of Dell and Tabatha Mires of Waterville. If you know any students 14- to 16-years-old who may be interested in paging direct them to the Web site at http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Pages/HousePageProgram.aspx.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments about the telephone town hall or anything else as we progress through the special session. I appreciate your input.