Legislative Update: Week 1

The State Budget

Every two years the Legislature writes the state operating budget. This budget pays for day-to-day expenses like teacher salaries, health care for low-income families, and prisons. You can read in more detail how the state budget works here.

While our state is slowly recovering from the recession, revenue is not keeping up with the demand for state services. Republican lawmakers say state revenues are up $3 billion from last biennium. While that is true, it’s only half the picture. Our projected expenses are up—way up—more than $3 billion.

It’ll cost about $3 billion just to continue government operations the way they were the last two years. But just continuing what we’ve done before will not be good enough.

Last year the State Supreme Court held the Legislature in contempt of court for failing to uphold our paramount duty to fund education laid out in the McCleary ruling. We need to invest at least $1.3 billion more in K-12 education for McCleary-related expenses to meet not just our legal obligations, but also our moral imperative to provide high quality schooling for our kids.

Voters also approved an initiative for smaller class sizes which costs an extra $2 billion. We also need significant improvements to our mental health and foster care systems. And we have over 120,000 teachers and state employees that have had their paychecks frozen for six years, reducing their buying power by 16 percent. Good teachers are leaving for other jobs.

The recession hit everyone hard, even the state government. We cut $12 billion in state spending since 2008. We cannot cut billions more and expect positive outcomes. In fact, one of the reasons mental health is in a crisis situation is because of the cuts that were made. In the end, we’re probably looking at some level of spending cuts to go along with some new revenue in order to balance our state budget.

Send me your thoughts – What would you cut from state government? What revenue options should we consider?



House Democrats led the way last biennium by passing a transportation package that would have built much-needed infrastructure, reduced traffic congestion, and repaired crumbling roads and bridges.

A transportation package would help fix that gridlock while creating jobs and giving more options for those who can’t afford a car. For example, in Governor Inslee’s proposed budget, projects like adding lanes to I-5 at Joint Base Lewis- McChord could ease the congestion for many commuters. Further, Inslee’s investment package would fund the completion of Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma, which is badly needed to help the Port of Tacoma remain competitive.

Unfortunately, the Senate refused to vote on this critical legislation. Failing to provide the infrastructure necessary to move goods and people quickly threatens our global competitiveness and our ability to create jobs for Washington residents.

As the Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee, I will continue to push to find solutions to traffic gridlock and more options for getting where you need to go, because that will help people and businesses today while creating jobs and building a better Washington for our kids and grandkids.


Minimum Wage

We can all agree that an honest day’s work should be rewarded with a fair wage.

But that’s not true for a lot of people in our state, even though corporate profits are on the rise and the stock market continues seeing record highs. While this economic recovery is benefitting top earners, working families and the middle class are still struggling. A lot of workers haven’t had a raise in years.

This week, I co-sponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour. The new minimum wage would be phased in over four years.

CURRENT – 2015 $9.47
Jan. 1, 2016 $10.00
Jan. 1, 2017 $10.50
Jan. 1, 2018 $11.00
Jan. 1, 2019 $12.00

Today, our state minimum wage of $9.47 an hour is not enough to afford the basics and contribute to the economy.

It’s time for fair pay for everybody who’s putting in an honest day’s work. Nobody who works a full-time job should have their family in poverty.

Small businesses across the state rely on people consuming their goods and services, and poverty wages aren’t just hurting working families—they’re harming the economy of our small towns and neighborhoods. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage is a job maker, because when people have money in their pockets they spend it in their local communities, helping their local businesses thrive.