Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now counting down the final weeks of the 2015 legislative session which is scheduled to adjourn April 26. We're expecting House Democrats to unveil their operating budget proposal sometime tomorrow. There will be much discussion following of how large it will be and whether Democrats will be seeking tax increases to grow government, as Gov. Inslee's earlier proposal would do.
I was honored to host the 2014 Battle Ground Rose Court yesterday who came to visit and tour the state Capitol. They have been wonderful ambassadors for the city of Battle Ground and I enjoyed our visit. In the photo above, we have: Bridget Flynn, Lexi Dufault, Yana Crossland and Alice Emch.
I invite you to consider touring your state Capitol. If you plan to come, give my office a call in advance so we can help. Here's a page on our legislative website to help you plan your visit.
Please also call, e-mail or write my office with your questions, comments and suggestions about state government and legislation. It is an honor to serve you!
A final-weeks operating budget proposal?
Many of my fellow Republican colleagues and I are disappointed that House Democrats will wait until tomorrow, March 27, the 75th day of the session before unveiling a two-year operating budget plan through House Bill 1106, That gives less than 30 days for the House and Senate to negotiate and find compromise on a budget agreement that can gain support in both chambers.
The Legislature moved up the date of the revenue forecast from March to February for the specific purpose of giving budget writers the ability to produce an operating budget earlier. Unfortunately, they waited until the final four weeks of the session.
Recent developments suggest projected revenues for the 2015-17 biennium will be over $3 billion more than our previous 2013-15 biennium. That represents nearly a 9 percent increase in state revenues over the past biennium. My prediction is this new revenue won't be nearly enough to satisfy the increasing appetite for those who want yet bigger and more costly state government. Democrats will likely want you to pay higher taxes to support what could be an operating budget that spends more than $39 billion – $5 billion more than our current two-year budget.
I will keep a close eye on the budget as it moves through Appropriations and comes to the House floor for full debate. It will be very difficult to approve of more spending when so many folks in our rural communities are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. My guess is that most of Washington residents did not get a 9 percent raise over the past two years.
I came to Olympia as a state legislator because I want to be part of a new culture of fiscal restraint; one that respects the will of voters on matters of limited government and sound fiscal policy. The next few weeks will be very important as we debate tax policies with statewide implications. My job is to protect our citizens from these big spenders and I take this task very serious.
House Transportation Committee debates Senate gas tax proposal
As a member of the Washington House Transportation Committee, I look forward to digging into the new gas tax revenue package of bills passed by the Senate Majority Coalition. While there are some decent reforms contained in a few of the bills, I am disappointed that many of these reforms do not go far enough. Taxpayers should expect more from us. This afternoon, our committee will hear the two Senate bills and then, over the week ahead, we will debate amendments. I will keep you informed as this suite of bills becomes finalized.
My ultimate goal is to instill meaningful reforms into the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) so that we can offer tax payers the best value for the money we are collecting at the pump.
Concerned teachers email me about controversial legislation
I am receiving dozens of emails from hard-working teachers across my district who are concerned about proposed legislation to address the federal waiver revocation which translated into a loss of control of millions of federal dollars by local school districts. Several Senate bills tie teacher evaluations to actual test scores by their students in order to get the federal waiver back.
One teacher wrote that when her third-grade class recently took the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, the parents of four of her brightest students chose to opt their children out of taking the test. They will all receive “0's” for a score. This will be part of the data used to evaluate her performance as a teacher. She contends the data will not be an accurate reflection of all her students' actual learning and growth that is required under the federal “No Child Left Behind” program. I agree with this teacher that it is not fair to base her evaluation solely on test scores, or a lack of test scores resulting from a parent's decision.
This teacher tells me she loves her students and teaching! She wants the Legislature to stop changing the system and just allow teachers to teach. She reminded me that educators are professionals. She has a Master's degree in education with an emphasis on literacy; before that a Bachelor's degree in elementary education and early childhood. She has taught 14 years and I believe her when she writes that she knows the business of children and their learning. She is asking the Legislature to please believe in educators and give them their classrooms back so they can teach.
My heart goes out to our hard working teachers. It is no wonder so many of them are leaving their teaching careers. I can think of no other group of professionals that has been meddled with as much by the Legislature over the past decade.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"