Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 17th day of the Legislature's special session. We are in what is called a “rolling” special session – meaning the House and Senate are rolling from one floor session to the next without lawmakers actually being on the floor.
Budget negotiators continue to meet and work on finding agreements on the operating, capital and transportation budgets, as well as a transportation funding package.
Public hearings are being scheduled this week for fiscal committees and floor action has been scheduled for May 20. I am hopeful key budget votes will take place in the next couple weeks.
The major difference between the House Democrats and Senate Republicans budget proposals is Democrats want to raise and implement new taxes by about $1.5 billion. Republicans believe we can pass a fiscally responsible budget because of a 9 percent increase in tax revenue. That increase means we have $3 billion in additional revenue compared to the last budgeting period.
State spending was about $8 billion in 1985, $16 billion in 1995 and $23 billion in 2005. It took more than 100 years for state spending to reach $23 billion and now we are going from about $23 billion in 2005 to almost $40 billion in this next budget. Maybe it is time we look at our legislative priorities and have a serious conversation about reforming the way state government operates.
I continue to hear from people around the district concerned about the proposed increase in the minimum wage. There was a bill introduced in the Legislature that would have increased the minimum wage to $12 an hour. It passed the House on a party-line vote (51 Democrats voting “yea” and 47 Republicans voting “no”). However, it died in the Senate. I expect labor unions to push for an initiative on next year's ballot that could possibly raise the wage up to $15 an hour. I recently had a column run in some of the weekly newspapers around the 12th District. In case you missed it, I have included it below.
I am disappointed some local teachers' unions around the state have decided to hold one-day strikes to protest proposed education funding. The Washington Education Association (WEA), the state's largest teachers' union, has been running radio ads that make false claims about the Senate education funding proposal. I think it is important to clarify some of their misinformation so everyone knows what the facts are in the Senate budget, not what the WEA is sharing in their radio ads.
- WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to “shortchange” pay and benefits for teachers and school staff.
- FACT: The Senate operating budget would bring teacher COLAs to voter-approved levels.
- WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to increase class sizes – even for kids in high-poverty schools.
- FACT: The bipartisan Senate capital budget would build 2,100 more classrooms to reduce K-3 class sizes.
- WEA's claim: The Senate Republicans are likely getting an 11 percent pay increase.
- FACT: The Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials determines lawmaker salaries and raises, NOT the Legislature. If the commission decides lawmakers will receive a raise, all lawmakers will receive a raise, not just Senate Republicans.
It is worth noting the Senate budget proposal this year gives K-12 the biggest share of spending seen in 30 years. They propose spending $2.7 billion more for K-12 than was spent two years ago. That is about an 18 percent increase.
While we won't know what education funding will look like until a final operating budget is passed, both parties and chambers seem committed to making a large investment in education and at a high enough level that certainly doesn't warrant a strike by teachers.