Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For the seventh time since Jay Inslee became governor, the Legislature is in a special session. When we began the regular session in January, our mission was clear: pass a responsible budget to address emergencies and make technical corrections to the two-year budget we passed last year. Unfortunately, House Democrats had other ideas and produced yet another budget that does not balance without tax increases and raids the Budget Stabilization Account, known as the “rainy day” fund.
Supplemental budgets are not intended to create new spending and establish new programs. Former state Rep. Tom Huff from Gig Harbor, who chaired the House Appropriations Committee in the late 1990s, laid out a practical and responsible criteria for considering budget requests in supplemental budget years:
- It is an unanticipated, unmanageable change in an entitlement program workload or caseload.
- It corrects a serious technical error in the original appropriation.
- It deals with an emergency.
- It addresses an opportunity that will not be available next biennium.
This philosophy was rejected by the majority party in the House and they continue to dig their heels in on millions of dollars in new spending and tax increases. This new spending would create a deficit for 2017-19 which violates the four-year balanced budget required by state law. Their budget doesn't address failures at Western State Hospital, and it doesn't prioritize education, in fact it doesn't even account for $487 million for K-3 class-size reduction we committed to. House Democrats have not put forward a good-faith budget, choosing to prioritize politics over compromise.
Adding to the challenges with House Democrats is the stunning lack of leadership coming from the governor. Gov. Inslee has brought his D.C.-style politics to Olympia and made good on a promise to veto bills we passed in an attempt to punish the Legislature. Last night, he vetoed 27 bills, the most vetoes at one time in state history. These bills, all from the Senate, included measures providing assistance to college students with disabilities, protecting the environment and supporting our state's multi-billion dollar agriculture industry. Leaders don't look to punish, they look for solutions.
In recent days, the Legislature has sent important bills to the governor's desk to be signed into law. Will the governor play politics with these bills to prevent cyber crime, recruit and retain state troopers, restrict the use of toxins in children's toys, and keep public charter schools open for students?
As this special session gets underway, many questions remain unanswered. One thing you can be sure of is I will continue to work for a solution that includes a budget that addresses wildfire recovery and meets our obligations to students, families and the most vulnerable members of our communities. People in our district and across the state are counting on us to keep our promise to have a balanced, sustainable budget and I intend to keep that promise.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve you in the state Legislature. I welcome your comments, concerns and questions during this special session and throughout the year.