Proposed House budgets unveiled this week
As you know, this past Monday House Democrats rolled out our three proposed budgets, Operating, Transportation and Capital. You can see what’s in each budget at http://leap.leg.wa.gov/
For more detailed information, Rep. Monica Stonier and I are working on a joint newsletter focused on the budgets and what they mean for the 49th district; you’ll see it in your inbox soon.
Ask Sharon Video
This is where I try to respond to the questions I get from you over phone and email. Click here or on the image below to watch this edition, in which I talk about the Housing Trust Fund, the importance of our commitment to adequately fund education, and the three budget proposals we released last Monday.
Wipeout: State budget surplus meets education ‘bow wave’
Spending decisions in previous legislative sessions have impacts on future budgets, also known as a “bow wave.” That’s the case with money appropriated in 2017 for the bipartisan school funding agreement, and additional funds appropriated last year to amply fund K-12 schools. The Legislature has to keep funding schools each year – in other words, it’s not a one-time expenditure.
The funding increase from last year means an additional $4.2 billion is needed to maintain that level of spending in this next two-year budget.
You may have heard that the state has billions in surplus funds. It does. But that surplus is just about equal to the additional $4.2 billion in education funding needs, which wipes out the surplus (this was before the most recent revenue forecast, which added around $500 million for the two-year budget).
If we want to improve our mental health system so that our friends and family members get help in a crisis; or improve special education programs allowing ALL kids to thrive; or make higher education more accessible and affordable, we have to figure out a way to pay for these investments.
I’m sure funding will be a hot topic until session adjourns on April 28. If we’re going to raise more money, I say let’s not increase the burden on low- and middle-income families and ask the very wealthy to also invest in our communities. Did you know the poorest people in the state pay six times more as a percent of their income than the richest people do? That doesn’t make sense!
My goal for any funding ideas would be this: If you’re not a multimillionaire and you don’t own a mansion, you won’t see any tax increases – in fact, you might see a drop in some taxes.
Missed our Telephone Town Hall? No problem!
It was a great call. About 400 of you joined us and we were able to take 18 of your questions over the course of one hour. We discussed a variety of issues, including child care costs, property taxes, where marijuana tax money goes, possibilities for the I-5 bridge, and education funding.
I am always grateful to have such an informed and curious constituency. Your interest in the work we are doing in Olympia is encouraging and definitely motivates us to do our best.
If you were not able to join us on the call last week, you’re welcome to listen to the audio file by going to our Vekeo site.
Taking mental health treatment to the streets
Jails and prisons aren’t set up to serve as mental health hospitals or drug rehabilitation centers. Yet law enforcement officers continually respond to calls involving people who are suffering from mental illness or addiction. Jail is incredibly expensive and doesn’t address the root cause of their problem.
House Bill 1767 passed the House with bipartisan support and had a hearing in the Senate last week. This legislation builds on existing law that puts mental health professionals in the field with patrol officers. The idea is to get people treatment so they don’t continue to needlessly cycle through the criminal justice system. This reform will prevent crime and get people the treatment they need.
Banning excessive non-compete agreements
Over 20 percent of American workers are subject to non-compete clauses in their contracts, including janitors, hair-stylists, technology workers, doctors, musicians, and fast-food workers.
Non-compete clauses typically require a worker to wait for a year or more after leaving one employer before they can work for another company in the same industry.
While it may make sense for some higher-paid employees, so they do not immediately go to work for a competitor, the practice has become too common in jobs where there is not the same level of knowledge or information.
House Bill 1450 curbs these unfair agreements, which will help ensure lower and middle-income employees have the economic mobility they need to have financial security. It passed the House on March 12 and had a hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce yesterday.
Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter. If you need more information, please contact my office. You can also visit my website and watch my videos. In my latest video update, I talk about our telephone town hall, the budgets, and the importance of data privacy. Click here to watch it.
Stay tuned for budget info coming soon.