Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In late December, Gov. Inslee released an $8.7 billion tax package to solve the final piece of the McCleary puzzle. Since then, it's been a waiting game to see when a more realistic proposal would be put on the table since there's no appetite among Washingtonians for massive new tax increases, nor does the governor's plan balance over four years.
Last Friday, Senate Republicans released the One Washington Education Equality Act, while House Democrats countered with their own plan on Monday. It's good to see both of these proposals released so early in the session. While you'll hear a lot of rhetoric being thrown around the next several weeks about which plan makes more sense, what I'm most concerned about is whether or not we'll be able to pass a comprehensive plan that addresses the biggest problem our education system faces — districts' overreliance on local levy dollars to fund basic education.
Last week, the House passed House Bill 1059, which would extend current state levy policy for one calendar year. The bill would delay the coming “levy cliff,” which is set to reduce the amount of money school districts are authorized to collect through local property tax levies. The state Supreme Court has ruled the state needs a constitutional funding source for basic education, which is why the passage of this bill is so disappointing. Raising the levy lid, which the Legislature did in 2010, was intended to be a temporary fix to allow time for the Legislature to enact sufficient reforms. All this time later, however, the fundamental problems with the way we fund K-12 education in our state still have not been addressed in an adequate and equitable way. This bill simply kicks the can down the road at a time when we should be focused on a long-term education funding solution.
Senate Republicans believe the best way to address this issue is by implementing a flat statewide “local effort levy” — or property tax. While this would present a big change from the current system, it would mean reduced property taxes for taxpayers in many legislative districts, including the 35th. It would also help achieve the overall goal of the proposal, which is to ensure students receive equitable funding and the same quality education in all 39 counties.
For their part, House Democrats have countered with a plan that simply pours more money into the current broken system and offers no meaningful accountability or reforms. It's just more of the same from yesteryear. That's unfortunate.
I am part of the House Republican negotiating team, which will come together with the other three caucuses to hash out one comprehensive plan. At the end of the day, I'll be happy as long as we put students first, keep quality teachers in the classroom, promote increased accountability, and provide equitable and sustainable funding for our schools.
Holding the Legislature accountable
When you send us to Olympia to represent you in the Legislature, you expect us to get to work and finish in the time we're allotted (105 days in odd years, 60 days in even years). What you don't expect is for us to continually require 30-day special sessions because we're not coming to budget agreements on time.
Since 2010, we've been called into 13 special sessions by the governor. Only once since 2010 have we not needed a special session. That signals a lack of respect for the timeframe we've been given, as well as a lack of respect for you, the taxpayer, because you have to foot the bill when we go into special sessions.
Because of our poor track record and the overall lack of urgency to complete our work on time, I've introduced House Joint Resolution 4205, which proposes a constitutional amendment to hold ourselves accountable. The resolution states that if we do not present an operating budget proposal to the governor by the time the clock runs out on regular session time, my pay and the pay of every other legislator would be suspended. Additionally, those in leadership would be fined $1,000 for every extra session day required. This bill is the right thing to do to ensure we remain focused on the task at hand and give you the respect you deserve as constituents.
Honoring Bronze Star Medal recipient Paul Buerger
I was honored to deliver remarks and take part in a ceremony last Wednesday to formally present Aviation Ordnanceman Third Class Paul Buerger with the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Vietnam. Buerger, who served in the conflict from March 1968 to December 1971, never received a formal presentation of his medal.
When he contacted American Legion Training Officer Syl Wiles last year to verify his Naval records reflected his Bronze Star Medal, he mentioned to her how much he would have liked to have had a ceremony when he received the medal in 1972. That comment spurred Wiles to action. She contacted me and began taking steps to coordinate the event held last week.
With more than 100 people in attendance — community members, law enforcement, and active and retired military — Rear Admiral Gary Mayes formally presented Buerger with the Bronze Star Medal. It was a very special day and I was honored to be part of it. Congratulations to Mr. Buerger and his family.
Death penalty survey results
In my last email update, I asked you to take a moment to answer the following survey question: “Do you agree with the current push by Gov. Inslee, Attorney General Ferguson and others to abolish capital punishment in Washington state?”
Of the 174 of you who responded, 110 of you also left comments. I know this is a sensitive issue, so I appreciate your participation and feedback. It's incredibly valuable to me.
The results of the survey:
Weekly radio interviews on KMAS
Every Wednesday morning during session, I have the opportunity to join KMAS' Jeff Slakey live on the air to discuss legislative issues. Last week, Jeff and I spoke about why I opposed House Bill 1059, my legislation to assist the maintenance of neighborhood association roadways, as well as my participation in the Bronze Medal Award ceremony for Paul Buerger.
This past Wednesday, we discussed education funding, as well as the many facets of the Senate Republicans' budget proposal and how it would affect the 35th District.
You can listen to all past segments here.
It's an honor to serve you in the state House. Please feel free to contact me any time with your questions, comments or concerns. My contact information is below.