Operating budget negotiations slowed by Republican refusal to negotiate
The regular legislative session has come and gone, and we are now two and a half weeks into a special session called by the Governor so that we can hammer out the details of two complex and interconnected issues: Fully funding K-12 education as mandated by the Supreme Court and drafting a bipartisan two-year budget.
The Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House each drafted separate operating budget proposals, knowing that our proposal would not be the final budget; that’s what negotiation and compromise are for.
Despite differing approaches, one thing both sides agreed on is that more revenue is needed to cover the costs of fully funding education. Senate Republicans proposed a new $5.5 billion property tax increase. We disagree with this approach, because a property tax is indiscriminate, hitting rich people and poor people alike, and it would hit our district especially hard, increasing taxes and decreasing money to our schools. We took a different angle, proposing progressive taxes that ask those who can afford it to pay a bit more, while providing tax relief to the middle class and about 80 percent of our state’s businesses.
Negotiations should have started once both proposals were on the table, but rather than negotiate, Senate Republicans have demanded procedural and politically symbolic House votes before sitting down with us.
Legislative work continues into special session
While our budget team tirelessly tries to bring the Senate Republicans to the table, we’re not sitting on our hands. Rather, we’re taking advantage of special session to continue working on some top legislative priorities. Eileen has continued to pursue her Balanced Billing legislation well into this special session. She is committed to removing the patient from disagreements in payments between insurers and doctors. Meanwhile, Joe has been working with a large and varied group of stakeholders and representatives on several pieces of lingering legislation, trying to balance preservation of our environment and natural resources, and the needs of our State’s growing population. He is continuing to build momentum around a sustainable and equitable carbon tax that reinvests in communities impacted by climate change, and provides economic opportunity to fossil fuel workers.
While we work, the days continue to tick by, and we know that students, teachers, and parents are growing more frustrated over the uncertainty around school funding. Our budget team has burnt the midnight oil trying to bring Republicans to the table. Substantive negotiations have yet to gain momentum, but we are committed to a final budget compromise that fully funds education without overburdening our district.
Thank you for all your support,