Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to once again thank you all for your encouragement, kind words and support this past year. Serving you in the Washington State House of Representatives is truly an honor and I'm reminded of this every time you and I have a conversation at the coffee shop, words over the phone or share a wave and a smile at one of our district's fairs, parades or community events. My door is always open and my office is always available to help you if you have questions or concerns about state government.
Our state is expecting to take in between $1.5 billion and $2 billion more in tax collections during this next two-year budget cycle. However, because state government continues to grow faster than the incomes of the taxpayers who pay for it, we're once again facing a budget shortfall for the 2013-15 biennium of nearly a billion dollars (plus or minus). When you add to that the estimated billion-dollar down payment in education required by the Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision, legislators will be looking to fill an estimated $2 billion budget hole. It's a task that can be done without raising taxes. As the session progresses, I'll talk more about our plans to fund education first and balance our state budget with existing tax dollars.
The issue of a two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes is once again heating up. The voters in this state have repeatedly supported this concept at the ballot box – and the majority party in Olympia has repeatedly overturned this taxpayer protection every chance they get. This year, I'm supporting House Joint Resolution 4201, which would place the Taxpayer Protection Act into the State Constitution, thereby preventing ANY majority party in Olympia (Republican or Democrat) from passing tax increases without a two-thirds vote.
We're also going to propose a specific rule on the House floor that says no tax increase bill can pass the House of Representatives and go over to the Senate for consideration unless it has the support of two-thirds of the House members. We want the members of the House of Representatives to take a vote on this rule so that the public can see who supports them and who stands against them on this issue. It's time to stop playing politics with the wallets of the hardworking families and taxpayers of this state.
Another rule that my House Republican colleagues and I are proposing is especially interesting and important to me and the citizens living in the 9th Legislative District. We want citizen testimony to take precedent when testifying in legislative committees. This means, citizens will get to testify FIRST and will be allowed more time while testifying. Too many times, we hear from agency after agency; lobbyist after lobbyist; association after association – and while each of these serves a role, nothing – NOTHING – should be more important than the testimony of that farmer, small-business owner, rancher, or concerned citizen that takes time off of work and drives hundreds of miles to testify in a committee for five minutes.
We expect to vote on these new House rules in the next week or so. I'll let you know how it turns out – and I'll continue to touch base with you with my E-mail updates throughout the session.
Again, thank you for the honor of serving you in Olympia.