Rep. Mike Sells March 16/2012 e-memo

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Special session starts

Because the House and Senate were unable to agree on a supplemental operating budget last week, the Governor called us back to work on Monday.  The majority of legislators, however, including myself, are not returning to the Capital until an agreement is reached.

The reason for that is simple – the leadership and budget teams are the only legislators doing hands-on budget work and until they get close to completing their task, no other legislative action is necessary.  All non-budget committees finished their work during the regular session.

Once a budget proposal is agreed to, of course, all of us will be required back for hearings and votes on a variety of bills needed to make the budget work.  But in the meantime, we are attempting to be as responsible and efficient as possible.

Budget update

While only a handful of legislators were in Olympia this week, there was no shortage of activity.  Governor Gregorian met regularly with leaders from all four caucuses to iron out the major areas of difference between the budget approved by the House and the budget approved by the Senate.

In the midst of the negotiating meetings, the Senate Republican leaders released another proposal to the media.  This new plan appears to be moving in the right direction for funding our public schools and higher ed system, happily, but contains some pretty major differences in other important areas.

Those differences are relatively small, dollar-wise, but represent very divergent values.  If the newest proposal is passed as written, some of the most vulnerable people in our state will be devastated:

  • 14,500 disabled people lose their medical coverage
  • 10,000 disabled people lose their homes
  • 3,350 low-income families lose their only source of income during this recession
  • 12,300 low-income families lose their food assistance

I want to get the budget written and approved as soon as possible, but we can’t sacrifice our basic values for simple expediency.  A budget isn’t just about numbers, it’s about people.

You can get more information about the latest proposal, as well as comparisons between it and the budget passed by the House and the earlier budget passed by the Senate here.

Housing Help

One of the hardest-hit areas by the Great Recession was housing. This session we passed bills to help the homeless, provide housing assistance, and lend a hand to homeowners in crisis.

HB 2048 expands highly successful programs that provide services for the homeless. On any given day, 23,000 people are homeless in Washington. This bill will raise $126 million over the next five years for state and local homeless programs via a $10 increase in certain document recording fees.

HB 2640 will help Housing Trust Fund dollars go further by emphasizing cost-effectiveness of investments. It requires the Housing Trust Fund to consider both total costs and the cost of housing per unit when reviewing applications for funding.

HB 2614 is a comprehensive bill aimed at helping homeowners in crisis by providing alternatives, remedies, and assistance. This bill has three components:

1)      It brings clarity to the short-sale process to ensure that homeowners are informed if the lender will collect the outstanding debt after the house has been sold in a short sale, and it reduces the amount of time, from six to three years, that lenders have to pursue homeowners for remaining debts.

2)      The provisions of HB 2421 were included in HB2614 to make important changes to the Foreclosure Fairness Act of 2011 in order for the mediation program to run more smoothly and streamline the demands on lenders

The provisions of SB 6515 were also included in HB 2614 to provide remedies for when a home is lost due to mistakes in the trustee sale. Currently, if you lose your home because of a mistake in the foreclosure process, it is impossible to get it back. This component of HB 2614 will void the trustee sale if certain conditions are met.

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