Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here's a quick update from Olympia as we finish Day 82 of the scheduled 105-day session. This was budget week at the state Capitol as House Democrats and Senate Republicans (Majority Coalition Caucus) introduced and considered competing operating budget proposals.
House Democrats passed their operating budget proposal yesterday after a three-hour debate, 51-47, with Republicans voting no. The Senate took up its proposal yesterday afternoon, but the extended debate with a lengthy list of amendments spilled into the early morning hours when senators finally called it quits for the night. They're expected to take up the debate again early next week.
Once each of the budgets are passed from their respective chambers, it is expected a conference committee will be appointed, made up of each of the parties in both the House and Senate. They will work to hammer out a compromise proposal, hopefully, within the next three weeks before the scheduled end of the session on April 26.
I believe we owe it to the taxpayers of our state to pass a responsible, sustainable budget that lives within our means (including the $3 billion of additional anticipated revenue coming to our state because of an improving economy), do so without raising taxes, AND be finished on time with no costly extra sessions.
Read on for more details about the House Democrat budget proposal, how I voted, and my work in the budget to attempt to rein in the Growth Management Hearings Boards and open sports fishing opportunities in Washington.
Please call, e-mail or write my office with your questions, comments and suggestions about the topics covered in this e-newsletter and any other matters involving state government and the Legislature. It is an honor to serve you!
Happy Easter and have a great weekend!
House Democrats approve partisan 2015-17 operating budget
I describe the budget measure, House Bill 1106, as partisan because it was narrowly approved yesterday, 51-47, passing strictly along a party-line vote with every Republican voting no.
We voted no because our state budget is already anticipating an additional $3 billion in new revenue, likely due to the fact that the operating budget we passed two years ago held the line on all tax increases, which is good for business. This $3 billion increase represents a 9 percent bump in new revenues. I don't know of anyone who has received a 9 percent increase over the past decade. Yet, for House Democrats in the majority, it was not enough as they wrote a budget that includes an additional $1.5 billion on top of that in new taxes. This is unconscionable to me.
Spending plan a 'hollow budget'
Even more disingenuous is the fact that the majority party passed this budget without voting on the new tax bills that would pay for their spending plan. This was done to protect their members from being on record to raise a whopping $1.5 billion in new taxes. One of my Republican colleagues called it a “hollow budget,” because it is essentially a wish list with no plan to pay for it.
$1.5 billion tax increases – Afraid of their own taxing shadow
Last Friday, House Democrats held a press conference in which they proposed a lengthy list a new and increased taxes and talked at length about the importance of raising taxes. Here's the list of the Democrat tax increases their own members are afraid to vote on:
Our last operating budget for 2013-15 was $33.8 billion. HB 1106 calls for $38.9 billion in spending. I'm disappointed this budget passed yesterday, but it is only the first step.
Senate Republican budget more reasonable, sustainable and no tax increases
I am encouraged by many aspects of the Senate Republican budget that will likely come to our chamber next week. The Senate budget shows our state can make K-12 education its number one priority, provide families with tuition relief, and protect our most vulnerable – without raising taxes. It makes the largest K-12 investment in state history, and reduces college tuition by an average of 25 percent. This is bold and unprecedented.
I am eager to work across the aisle and across the rotunda to pass a sustainable budget that does not include any tax or fee increases.
Let me be very clear, I'm not in favor of raising taxes on our working families and businesses. I get hundreds of emails each week from citizens telling me they don't want to pay higher taxes and fees. I agree with them! I came to Olympia to protect our working families from bigger, more expensive state government.
Pike offers amendments to rein in GMA board, expand sports fishing
I offered a couple of floor amendments to the operating budget. My first proposed amendment would have reduced funding to the Growth Management Act (GMA) Hearings Board by $200,000. The reduction reflects assumptions from my House Bill 1158, which would have authorized counties to adopt an ordinance granting superior courts exclusive jurisdictions over land-use appeals that would otherwise be determined by the GMA Hearings Board. It's unfortunate the majority party did not accept my amendment, because this would have saved Clark County rural landowners hundreds of thousands of dollars in the cost of expensive land-use appeals.
My other floor amendment would have required the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to maximize recreational fishing opportunities by prioritizing those seasons over commercial fishing and increasing production of hatchery fish. I offered this amendment on the floor because the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee chairman refused to hold a hearing on my measure, House Bill 1660. This was a refusal to allow an open, public debate on an idea that would have created a world-class sport fishing industry in our state and could have added millions of dollars to our state's tourism industry. As I've written in previous newsletters, our recreational fishermen contribute the largest chunk of money to DFW — nearly $71 million from the sale of recreational fishing licenses and excise taxes on fishing tackle, or about 19 percent of DWF's total budget. The smallest contribution – $1.5 million – or less than one-half of one percent of DWF's budget, comes from commercial fishing interests. Yet, each user group gets to harvest about the same amount of fish. The majority party did not accept my amendment.
Want more information about the House Democrat budget and tax increases?
I invite you to watch this video from my colleague, Rep. Matt Manweller, a member of the House Finance Committee, who does a great job explaining why the House Democrat budget is not a good fit for Washington.
I'm not in favor of raising taxes. As your representative, I'd like to know if you agree. This is YOUR money. You should have a voice in how it is spent and whether or not taxes are raised.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"