House capital budget makes important investments in Seattle communities

OLYMPIA – House Democrats released a capital budget on Friday that will make important investments in communities throughout Seattle.

The following is a joint statement from Reps. Reuven Carlyle and Gael Tarleton who represent the 36th Legislative District:

“Today, the Washington House Democrats introduced a capital budget that will reinvest in the future of Washington. This plan includes invaluable school construction projects that will build a better Washington for our children.

“We are proud to announce that this budget includes plans to repair and reopen the Magnolia Elementary School. Since its closure more than a decade ago, the Magnolia school has become overgrown and an unsuitable place for our children to learn and grow up. This capital budget includes $7.7 million for the Magnolia Elementary School to make it ready for kids once more. This is about more than repairing a school – this is about our greater responsibility to repair education for our children.

“The best capital investments we can make are those that improve our communities and overall quality of life. With this budget proposal, we’ll be doing just that with investments in the Pike Place Market Front Project, Pike Place Market Neighborhood Center, and Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Center. These investments will go a long way to making the 36th Legislative District a great place to live and work.”

Several projects will be funded to improve the region’s vibrant arts and culture experiences including:

  • $365,000 – Opera House – ADA Access
  • $232,000 – Cornish Playhouse
  • $131,000 – Seattle Theatre Group

Projects to improve environmental sustainability include:

  • $7 million – North Beach CSO – Protecting Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound from toxic run-off
  • $1.86 million – KEXP’s New Home at Seattle, which will revitalize the Northwest corner of the Seattle Center and bring music to the people
  • $450,000 – Mercer Arena Energy Savings and Sustainability

Addition capital budget documents can be found here: http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetCBillsHouse.aspx

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House budget fully funds basic education

OLYMPIA – House Democrats unveiled their 2015-17 operating budget plan on Friday – a budget that will add $3.2 billion in additional K-12 investments over the next two years compared to the 2013-15 budget. The HDC proposal is the first budget proposal on the table that puts the state in full compliance with the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, which mandates the state adequately fund basic education by 2018.

“After seven years of cuts totaling more than $12 billion, we have to take an honest look at the state of our state,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington). “We have to ask: ‘Is this really what we want?’ This budget is a stand against mediocrity. Just being ‘Okay’ is not acceptable.”

“This budget keeps our promises to Washington’s one million kids,” said Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), House Appropriations Chair. “We’re making the biggest investment in student success, mental health, and middle-class families that our state has seen in decades. It’s a responsible budget that meets the needs of our state and balances over four years.”

Highlights included in the House Democratic Budget Proposal:

  • $3.2 billionAdditional K-12 spending, a 21% increase in funding over last biennium
    • $1.4 billion in K-12 policy adds that will count towards that state’s McCleary obligation including:
      • K-3 class size reduction
      • Full funding for all-day kindergarten for every child in the state
      • Materials, supplies and operating costs
      • Supports to prepare students for college and careers
    • The remaining $1.8 billion investment pays for the policy decisions made towards fully funding education in the 2013-15 budget.
  • $385 million – Restore cost-of-living adjustments for school employees.
  • $227 million – Expansion of quality early learning and childhood education.
  • $256 million – Investments in higher education including two years of tuition freezes, student financial aid, and high-demand, high-salary degrees.
  • $100 million – New mental health capacity to ensure that people get the help they need in their time of crisis.
  • $9.6 million – Restore previous cuts to the state’s Food Assistance program that feeds hungry children, families, and seniors in the state.

As a result of an unfair and outdated tax structure, state revenues are becoming increasingly inadequate to pay for essential state services like basic education, health care, and prisons. The state doesn’t have adequate resources despite a growing economy. After seven years and $12 billion in budget cuts stemming from the Great Recession, many lawmakers believe now is time to act on revenue reform.

“We have the most unfair tax structure in the nation,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), House Finance committee chair. “Our tax system hurts working families, the middle class, and small businesses, while the wealthiest individuals and corporations don’t pay their fair share. It’s time to build fairness in the system so that we can make critical investments in our state’s economy.”

The budget proposal includes a revenue package that takes a step toward restoring fairness in the system and generates the revenue needed to pay for essential state services. Those proposals include:

  • Ask the wealthy to pay their fair share by imposing a 5% excise tax on capital gains profits.
    • Revenues from the capital gains tax would go into a new “Student Investment Fund” to be used for K-12 and higher education investments.
  • Reinstate the increase on the B&O service tax rate by .3%.
    • A similar policy was enacted temporarily during the Great Recession.
    • The proposal also increases the Small Business B&O Tax Credit for service businesses by nearly double, eliminating B&O tax for an additional 15,000 businesses each year. Services businesses making up to $100,000 in taxable income would pay no B&O taxes at all.
  • Bring fairness to our home-grown online retailers by taxing transactions from out-of-state online retailers.
  • Repeal and narrow seven of the 650 tax exemptions that have proven to be outdated, costly, and inefficient.

The total amount of revenue raised though this proposal is $1.5 billion. Additional details of the revenue package can be found here.

The operating budget, HB 1106, is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, March 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Budget documents can be viewed at: http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetOBillsHouse.aspx

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Hearing on Transportation Revenue Package Draws Big Crowd

A hearing on the Senate’s transportation revenue package yesterday brought more than 100 people to the House Transportation Committee. The three hour public comment heard near unanimous support new revenue – with a few changes.

“What we heard today is a strong desire for new investments in our transportation system, but not necessarily the way they are laid out in the revenue package before us,” said Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island). “While we agree on more than we disagree at this point, I think there are still some legitimate concerns with this proposal.”

The testimony on specific infrastructure projects was overwhelming positive. In expressing support, many noted the dramatic increase in traffic congestion over the past few years.

“I grew up in Mexico City, at the time the largest city in the world. I feel like I have spent my whole life stuck in traffic. I feel the same way now,” said Renton City Councilmember Ruth Perez.

Even among supporters however, a number of those who came before the committee voiced concerns about the level of funding Sound Transit would be authorized to seek from the voters.

“My request is pretty simple. When you get off the plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, you can take the light rail to Seattle. You should also be able to take it to Tacoma. We need the full $15 billion authority for Sound Transit so the voters can decide on that investment,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, echoing more than a dozen other local elected officials.

“Ridership on public transportation is very high among immigrants and refugees, but the affordability crisis in our urban centers continues to push people of color and low-income communities to the suburbs,” said Ellicott Dandy from immigrants’ rights organization OneAmerica. “We ought to anticipate and accommodate the increased need for reliable, efficient, and sustainable mass transit.”

Others criticized transferring money away from environmental cleanup and the ‘poison pill’ preventing the Department of Ecology from enacting low-carbon fuel standards.

“We cannot accept a 16 year poison pill that prevents the Governor from taking action to combat global climate change,” said Joe Kendo from the Washington State Labor Council.

Clibborn expects the bill to be moved out of committee in the next few weeks after legislators have time to weigh the public testimony and develop amendments.

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Companion bills would allow personal marijuana home grows

Clarity, limited bureaucracy and patient protections are the goals of bipartisan marijuana legislation introduced today by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen.

Senate Bill 6083, sponsored by Kohl-Welles, and House Bill 2196, sponsored by Blake, would permit individuals 21 years of age or older grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use. Only one home grow would be allowed per residence. Anyone who grows marijuana for personal use would be able to possess up to 8 ounces of useable marijuana and donate up to one ounce to another adult without compensation. The legislation would go a long way towards eliminating the need for multiple regulatory schemes and remove incentives driving the illicit marijuana market, the sponsors said. Continue reading

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Distaste for Debate is Ominous Message from Senate

Things move a bit more quickly in the House of Representatives than in the Senate. We have twice as many members, we usually have more bills to consider, and we definitely have as many points of view as we have legislators.

As the House majority, Democrats incorporate the views, and bills, of all members, including Republicans. Which is why we find it curious when Senate Republican leadership talks about “squelching debate” in the House. Continue reading

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