Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the second special session of 2015 underway, negotiators in the House and Senate continue to work on a final budget for the 2015-17 biennium. Both budget proposals on the table make historic investments in education, mental health services and address other critical funding priorities. The debate remains how to pay for these priorities – using existing revenue or increased taxes. There is no debating, however, our priority remains fully funding K-12 education.
We received another positive economic revenue forecast in May. The latest forecast again showed there is no need for the tax increases being proposed by the House majority party. In fact, Gov. Inslee has backed off his massive tax proposal and The Seattle Times has written tax increases this year are unnecessary. The House majority party, however, continues to insist on a $550 million capital gains income tax. I don't believe this is the right direction for our state. Rather, we should prioritize spending and live within our means.
Throughout the special session, I have visited schools across our District and met with teachers and students. Many voiced their concerns about education funding in the 2015-17 budget. I can tell you your voice has been heard loud and clear in Olympia. The budgets proposed by the House and Senate increase K-12 education funding by nearly 18 percent – a historic investment in basic education that reverses years of inadequate funding.
With this substantial investment, we continue to address the McCleary ruling and fulfill our paramount duty as laid out in the state constitution. In fact, $1.3 billion has been proposed to address McCleary which includes increased funding for K-3 class size reduction ($350 million), all-day kindergarten ($190 million), and maintenance, supplies, and operating costs ($740 million). The Senate Capital Budget also includes funding to build 2100 new classrooms in the state to meet class-size reduction needs.
I have also heard from a number of you on the issue of teacher COLAs. I am a strong supporter of reinstating the COLA and have been disappointed the House majority party withheld the voter-approved raises for teachers over the past several years. This year, I am happy to report both budget proposals include teacher COLAs. These are the important investments I will continue to fight for in the budget.
While I remain hopeful a compromise can be struck in the coming days, I hope the work we do in Olympia will embrace the urgency felt by many people in our community. We must fulfill our duty and finish our work as soon as possible.
Governor signs bills into law:
- House Bill 1636 requires state agencies with more than 100 employees to issue a report on the number of persons with disabilities employed. The idea for this bill was brought to me by a constituent last year and helps identify work force opportunities for those with disabilities at state agencies. It passed the Legislature unanimously.
- House Bill 1749, another constituent request bill, ends the requirement for homeowners working on their house to “flip” it to register with Labor and Industries as a contractor. Labor and Industries levied large fines against homeowners who made these types of improvements without registering as a contractor. Not only is this an unfair requirement, it hinders economic growth. I am happy it passed the Legislature unanimously.
A third bill, Senate Bill 5893, was also signed into law. I sponsored the House version of this bill which clarifies the laws regarding amateur hockey players in the state and exempts them from the Minimum Wage and Industrial Welfare Act. Amateur hockey teams have been operating in Washington since the 1970s and there was strong bipartisan agreement that amateur athletes do not work for junior hockey league teams in the same way the Zamboni driver does. This clarification will allow junior hockey teams in the state to continue to offer young athletes development and educational opportunities as well as continue to contribute to the economic growth of their community.
New district office
I am excited to announce the opening of our new district office. The office is located inside the North Mason Chamber building at 30 NE Romance Hill Rd Suite 101, Belfair. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8-5 p.m., or by appointment.
I believe people deserve elected officials who are accessible and responsive to their needs. I'm looking forward to helping people navigate state government and listening to their concerns and ideas to strengthen our community.
I hope you will continue to contact me with your questions, concerns and comments on the budget and other issues important to our state. If you would like me to visit your community group, school or business, I am always available to do so. I enjoy spending time in our community hearing directly from you. Please contact my office to make arrangements.