Greetings from Olympia!
With these two budgets out, it’s now the House’s turn, and we introduced our proposal today. In the next few weeks budget writers from both chambers will work toward a compromise budget that will support schools, public safety, and other vital state services for the next two years.
I’d like to let you know what I’ll be advocating for in our budget as it moves through the process. The House budget, which came out today, closes 15 tax loopholes, and makes a $1.3 billion down payment on our K-12 system. Like the Governor’s proposal, it provides for our children’s education and welfare, protects our environment, and invests in our economy, all while closing unfair loopholes. On the other hand, the Senate’s budget makes a less substantial down payment for our K-12 system, takes money from our environmental programs, and hurts those in need, all while opening 15 new tax loopholes.
Here’s more on what I’d like to see:
Let’s invest in our kids
Our first priority this session must be to put a substantial down payment on fully-funding our public school system. Frankly, I’m ashamed that it took a Supreme Court ruling for the Legislature to make properly funding our schools our top priority. Under the McCleary ruling, the State must increase its funding for basic K-12 education by $4.5 billion by the 2017-19 biennium. In the House we are proposing an aggressive $1.3 billion McCleary down payment, which invests $91 million to expand all-day kindergarten, and $225 million to give our kindergarten through 2nd graders smaller class sizes, compared to the Republican Senate’s additional $1 billion (going mainly towards school transportation and school materials), which puts off major investments into future years.
We also must make a real investment in our early learning and childcare programs. I sponsored a bill to expand access to our Working Connections childcare program, which helps needy parents afford quality childcare so they can work or go to school. The Senate budget cuts 4,000 families off from this program, and I will be fighting hard to make sure that the House budget protects Working Connections, and makes enrollment more efficient and streamlined.
We also cannot continue to cut and underfund our higher education system. Since the 2005-2007 biennium, state funding in higher education has fallen 36% – more than doubling the cost of tuition at our research universities for our students and their families. This trend must stop – our economic future relies on us having a well-educated workforce. Furthermore we must ensure that our higher education system is affordable and accessible to every able Washington State student. While the House budget increases our funding to higher education, and slows the tuition increases we’ve seen the past few years, I will be pushing for a decrease, or at the very least to keep tuition flat.
Let’s keep State Parks open
Our State Parks system is one of the best in the country, and I have been vocal in supporting these state treasures. The Senate’s budget only provides for $16.4 million in funding, which would mean additional closures. Our House budget provides $23.8 million in General Fund support to our Parks system, and will keep our parks open and maintained.
Let’s protect our most vulnerable
Here is just one example of the many painful cuts that we should reexamine in the Senate’s budget. Their proposed budget cuts $30.2 million from the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program – a program which helps needy families stay in their homes, pay their utilities, buy essential supplies for their home, and support their transportation needs. At the same time, they are proposing to cut $7.3 million from a cash grant given to aged and disabled folks with the assumption that those folks will in turn be eligible for services from the HEN program – thus asking HEN to serve more people with less. This cut will affect 11,500 needy individuals. We cannot balance our budget on the backs of the needy who have already taken the brunt of our cuts the past two biennia.
Let’s close ineffective tax loopholes
Our state has 640 tax loopholes, worth billions of dollars annually. Right now almost none of them have an end date, and very few are systematically reexamined to see if they are effective. Are they helping the economy? Are they creating jobs? I support a system where all new loopholes have a sunset date to force the Legislature to look at them on a regular basis. I’d also like to see all of our current loopholes amended to have a sunset date so that we can examine them as well, getting rid of those that are not helping the economy.
Keep in touch
As always, I welcome your comments, feedback, and visits! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 360-786-7818. If I’m not available, my Legislative Assistant Nigel Herbig is always happy to pass your concerns on to me.
All the best,