Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For the first time since 2009, the Legislature adjourned on time without going to a special session. The last 48 hours of session were a whirlwind of activity as staff and legislators scrambled to finalize agreements, print the necessary documents and vote on legislation. We adjourned just before midnight on the last day of the 60-day legislative session.
The final bipartisan budget agreement that passed the Legislature was the first truly supplemental budget I've seen in years. The supplemental budget is NOT a time to rewrite the entire budget. It is specifically for addressing unforeseen circumstances in caseloads or revenue collections so that our budget remains balanced throughout the two-year biennium. In the past, lawmakers were either writing full-scale budgets during supplemental years to add programs and increase spending (during Gov. Gregoire's first years in office) because tax collections were high, or having to scale back the budget due to the recession when tax collections were low. This year, budget writers in both the House and Senate finally avoided both.
While it wasn't a perfect budget, in the end, I voted for it. It increased spending by less than 0.23 percent, mostly for maintenance issues. It included a little more for education and the McCleary decision ($58 million) and a little more for Opportunity Scholarships ($25 million). It keeps our promise to college students by freezing tuition rates for the entire 2015 school year and keeps a little more in reserves ($315 million) to protect against any downturn in our economy. It also does NOT rely on new or increased taxes, like the e-cig (vaping) tax that would quite literally destroy this industry. This onerous tax is something I've heard from many of you about and we worked hard to make sure that tax was not in the final budget.
One of the most important aspects about the budget is that is balanced out for four years! This is a new requirement based on a law that passed last year, something my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus and I have been advocating for years. In order to help avoid the “budget roller coaster” of the past, our state budget must now be projected to balance out in the next biennium as well as the current two-year budget cycle. This four-year budget requirement is a huge protection for taxpayers and overspending.
Governor will visit Palouse Falls to sign legislation…
Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 18) at 1:30 p.m., Gov. Jay Inslee will visit the Palouse Falls to sign my bill (House Bill 2119) naming the falls our official state waterfall. The event is open to the public and I would like to invite you to attend if you are able. I believe you will need a Discovery Pass to enter the park. This has been a fun experience for me and the students learned a firsthand civics lesson they will never forget. The whole point of these types of bills is to engage their minds while they're young and let them experience firsthand what our form of government is all about; something students in many other countries never get to experience.
While the legislative session is over, my work as your representative in Olympia is not. My office is here to assist you in dealing with state agencies if you need it, or to help answer questions you may have about state laws or other issues. I'm also available to speak to your civic group (Kiwanis, Rotary, Chambers of Commerce, etc.), classrooms or church group. My continuing goal is to help bring state government closer to you. This is your government. I want to help you stay involved, active and influential. Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. I'll do my best to work around my farming schedule to accommodate you.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter and for the honor of serving you in Olympia.