Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The education funding debate is starting to heat up. Both the Senate Republicans and the House Democrats have released their proposals to solve the final McCleary puzzle piece: the state's overreliance upon local levy dollars to fund basic education.
The Democrats fail to show how they would pay for their plan, including exactly which taxes they would create or raise to get the $6.5 billion needed to fund their proposal. We've seen tax proposals from them, but don't know specifically which ones they would use for education. To view a list of the over $7 billion in tax increases proposed by House Democrats so far, click here.
While there are some concerns with the Senate proposal, it does a good job of funding education mostly within existing revenues. To view a side-by-side comparison of the two plans, click here.
This is a good first step as both sides have made their plans public and open for debate. However, until House Democrats pass their plan off the House floor and actually vote for the tax increases needed to fund their plan, it's tough to negotiate in good faith. You have one side with a fully-funded proposal and the other using “ghost money.” I'll keep you informed as the session progresses.
My online survey
Again, if you haven't yet taken my online survey, please do so. I value your thoughts and opinions as I represent you in Olympia. It should only take a moment of your time and I'll report the results back to you later on this session. You can take my survey here.
Water update: The Hirst decision
Many of you have contacted my office about the state Supreme Court's overreach with the Hirst decision, which has effectively put a stop to construction and development with exempt wells around the state. We are working hard to come up with a solution. Here are some of the bills we're working on:
HB 1382 The Hirst Washington Supreme Court decision indicated that Counties (not property owners) had to establish that water usage from an exempt well does not impair in stream flows. This bill changes the presumption of “impairment” to presumption of “no impairment” for permit exempt wells.
- HB 1349 The Hirst decision came about because there was a concern about water usage and impact of exempt wells in rural areas. A USGS hydrogeologist before a joint hearing in December indicated exempt wells are only 1 percent of WA water usage. Some counties have stopped issuing permit exempt wells because of the decision. This bill itemizes all the money the state has paid over a decade to improve fish habitat and then declares the cumulative impacts on instream or base flows associated with permit-exempt groundwater withdrawals are deemed mitigated. This way, permit exempt wells can continue as statute requires, not restricted by this court decision.
- HB 1459 The Hirst decision perpetuates on the concept that wells are detrimental to the environment and only remove water. There is an understanding that sometimes wells actually go into deeper aquifers and may bring more water to the surface. This bill requires assessments of land use to take into account potential recharge of groundwater.
- HB 1748 The Hirst decision interpreted the “rural element” of the Growth Management Act that has resulted in some counties preventing usage of permit exempt wells. Some counties are now requiring property owners to hire hydrogeologists to find legal and physical water for each property, thus de facto nullifying the “permit-exempt” which is still clearly stated in statute. The GMA is supposed to provide affordable housing in all areas, and exempt wells are an important aspect of affordable housing in rural areas. This bill modifies the rural element of the GMA to remove some restrictive language and clearly declares exempt wells unrestricted by the GMA are part of the rural environment
- The Hirst issue is a complex one, but I have confidence we'll be able to arrive at a solution.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns about your state government.