I hope that you are all well and taking good care of yourselves during the unexpected early hot weather.
Thank you to all who contacted my office since the beginning of the regular session, which now seems so long ago. I also thank all of you for your positive and supportive e-mails during our three special sessions. A special thank you to everyone who made the special effort to come all the way to Olympia. It was such a pleasure to see you!
I apologize to the many of you who were unable to meet with me in person due to my heavy schedule. I do hope that should you travel down next year, we have a chance to talk. I hope to see you back home in the district for the remainder of the year.
I had anticipated that my end of year e-memo would be reporting all good news to you. The good news is that we have passed an operating budget, both a transportation operating budget and a new revenue budget, and a capital budget that Governor Inslee has signed.
The not so good news is that our current revenue sources are not sufficient to makes real investments in the future of our economy and the well-being of our children, families, and communities. We House Democrats initially offered a capital gains tax on the state’s 32,000 most prosperous tax-payers. This capital gains tax was to provide a stable funding source for K-12 and higher education. The capital gains tax was strongly rejected by the Senate Republicans.
However, the House Democrats and Senate Republicans did agree to raise new revenue another way. The Senate accepted our proposal to enact $452 million in tax loophole closures. This additional revenue allows us to make core investments in the services that are important to our constituents.
Another not so good news is the implementation schedule of I-1351. Both House and Senate voted to revise the implementation schedule for Initiative 1351, moving the first date of required funding from the 2015-17 fiscal biennium to the 2019-21 fiscal biennium. I voted against this four year delay.
A great disappointment is that Governor Inslee’s Carbon Pollution Accountability Act did not make it to the floor. I believe that this plan is a smart way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. Additionally it is projected to generate about $1 billion annually, starting in 2016.
Another great disappointment is the failure of HB 2147, Rep. June Robinison’s bill, to come to the floor. The focus of this bill is on making Boeing accountable for the tax incentives they were given in 2013. Since the beginning of this session, I have heard from a substantial number of you supporting HB 2147. I too, whole heartedly support this bill.
Now to the special highlights of what we Democrats accomplished in the 2015 regular and the three special sessions.
Cradle to Career Education
K-12 Education – We are on the right path to meeting our constitutional obligation to fully fund our schools as required by our constitution and our Supreme Court. Our $1.3 billion in school funding will go toward K-3 class size reduction, all-day kindergarten, maintenance, supplies, and operating costs (MSOC).
Teacher COLAs – We all know that the best way to make sure every child succeeds in school and life is by having the best possible teacher in every classroom. I believe that paying teachers adequately is vitally important to providing a high-quality education. In addition to restoring the I-732 cost-of-living adjustments, we added another $157 million in funding teacher COLAs to help educators make up lost ground on their earnings during the Great Recession. Additional investments are also made to ease health care premium costs for all K-12 employees.
Higher Education – Opportunity for all is a core value for House Democrats. College should be affordable and accessible for all students. All college students will receive a 5 percent tuition reduction for the 2015-16 school year. For 2016-17, students at UW and WSU will receive an additional 10 percent reduction and students at the regional schools will receive an addition 15 percent reduction.
The state will also invest an additional $41 million in scholarships for high-demand majors in science, technology, engineering, math and health care (Opportunity Scholarship). Additional investments are made in computer science and engineering programs at UW and WSU.
Early Learning – Children won’t get a fair shot in school and life until we close the opportunity gap. One of the best ways to do this is to provide high quality early learning. This budget makes over $159 million in early learning investments to improve outcomes for kids, expand Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) enrollments, and stabilize Working Connections Child Care eligibility.
In the next email update, I’ll tell you about important laws that passed – or didn’t pass.
As always, I thank you for contacting me on any and all issues. Your input is important to me. Please keep in touch.
Best wishes to all.
Representative Cindy Ryu (D)
for the 32nd Legislative District