Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There is only a week left in the special session. However, on Monday the Legislature received some positive news from the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council that should help in adjourning soon.
The council released its revenue forecast and Washington state is looking at an increase of $106 million for the ongoing 2013-15 budget cycle and an increase of $309 million for the upcoming 2015-17 budget cycle.
Our state will now have nearly $3.2 billion more in tax revenue – more than a 9 percent increase – for the next budget cycle. That is more than enough to pass a fiscally responsible and sustainable budget. I am hopeful House Democrats will realize there is no need for new or increased taxes. It seems the governor has backed off from his original budget and tax proposal in December. Inslee says $1.4 billion tax package no longer needed.
We will be in Olympia next week for the final three days of the special session. It will be difficult to get all three budgets – operating, capital and transportation – done in such a short period of time, but I am hopeful if we don't, we will stay there until the work is finished.
Teachers' strike update
I stated in a previous email update I was pleased none of the school districts in our region had decided to strike to protest education funding. Unfortunately, Wenatchee and Eastmont decided to hold one-day strikes this week.
I could understand their frustrations if the Legislature wasn't about to pass the biggest education budget in history. We will see an increase in education spending of more than $1.3 billion, the teacher's will get their COLA's and we will be lowering class size.
I am concerned teachers are not getting the most accurate information from the teachers' union, the Washington Education Association (WEA). Their initial radio ads were misleading and contained false information. I have also seen comments about conservatives or Republicans are to blame for the education funding issue.
Democrats have been in control of the Legislature and governor's mansion for most of the last 30 years. Ironic the WEA is protesting education funding when it is their Democrat friends who have been running the state for three decades. Republicans in the House have tried for the last decade to pass a bill that would “Fund Education First” and pass a budget for education before anything else. Another idea continually shot down by Democrats…who the WEA supports.
Finally, I have always supported the teacher COLA when it has come up for a vote in the Legislature. Even without the COLA, most teachers have had an increase in salary since 2008, which has not happened for other state employees.
I am looking forward to my next update telling you budget agreements have been reached and we have adjourned for the interim.