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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday was a landmark day and a new beginning in the effort to provide a new bridge over the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland and new capacity to relieve congestion across the border.
During consideration of the 2015-17 maintenance-level transportation budget, House Bill 1299, lawmakers approved an amendment I wrote with the assistance of Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, who offered the measure for consideration. Amendment 354 would appropriate $100,000 for the Washington State Transportation Commission to coordinate and staff a bi-state project legislative work group.
The specific purpose of the work group, as written in the amendment, is to “consider options for capacity, safety, sufficiency, public support and cost effectiveness in developing a solution to meet the needs of the corridor.” The workgroup will be made up of a bipartisan group of legislators from both states whose districts are adjacent to the project and are members of their respective transportation committees. We will also be utilizing experienced facilitators from the William D. Ruckleshaus Center and the Oregon Consensus Center to help with composition of the group.
The amendment was approved on a voice vote. Listen to my floor speech here.
Read more about this effort in The Columbian.
It's my hope this finally lays to rest the failed Columbia River Crossing project and puts us on a bipartisan path for a new solution that will work for all parties in Washington and Oregon.
House Bill 1299 passed the House 78-19, but still needs approval of the Senate. I'm confident this bipartisan work will remain in the bill and will lay the foundation for an eventual new bridge across the Columbia River. We also have much work to do to reach out to Oregon legislators and gain their trust and cooperation.
Fifteen days remain of the scheduled 105-day session. Read below for details on the two operating budget proposals. Also, The Columbian is considering my opinion editorial on Gov. Inslee's low carbon fuel standards proposal for publication in its Sunday's newspaper. But you can get an early read on it here! See below!
Please contact my office with your questions, comments and suggestions about the budget proposal or any other matters relating to legislation and state government. It is an honor to serve and represent you!
A tale of two operating budgets
Both the House Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (Republicans) have passed competing operating budgets out of their respective chambers.
I think there are things to like and dislike in both proposals. Both proposals add millions of dollars to K-12 education, which should satisfy the state Supreme Court “McCleary Decision” requirements. Both the House and Senate recognize what a tremendous burden the high cost of tuition is on students in our colleges and universities, so they attempt to address those concerns in these proposals.
I am very concerned, however, that House Democrats have passed their budget proposal, which is based on raising taxes by more than $1.5 billion. Their “revenue” (tax increase) package would include, among other items: a new capital gains tax; an increase of business and occupation taxes on service businesses, which could impact our small Main Street Mom and Pop businesses; and eliminating the border tax credit for Oregonians who shop in Washington. Interestingly enough, the Democrats have not brought up their tax increase bill for a vote in the House Finance Committee. Yet, they've passed a budget that relies on that bill.
The Senate proposal does not rely on tax increases. They recognize that the state is already getting a record pay raise — more than $3 billion in additional tax collections because of a better economy. That's a 9 percent raise — a lot more than most people have seen in their paychecks.
We don't need a tax increase! And our local constituents agree. Last week, I asked recipients of this email update to answer this question:
Do you support House Democrats' tax increase proposal? Here are the results:
- No, the state should live within its means: 74.52%
- Yes, the state needs more revenue to provide more services: 21.61%
- Not sure, need more information: 3.87%
Thank you to more than 300 citizens who responded. I'm glad my position in in synch with nearly 75 percent of respondents who say that state government needs to live within its means without tax increases.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn its regular session on April 26. In the next 14 days, lawmakers from both chambers will need to get together to hammer out a compromise two-year budget, which will likely look much different from the two budgets presented here. We owe it to you, the taxpayers, to have this task finished and to be done on time by the end of the 105-day regular session.
OPINION EDITORIAL: Low carbon fuel standard is bad policy for Washington
Gov. Jay Inslee wants to implement a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), a fuel policy designed to reduce carbon in transportation fuels. Given Washington's demonstrated commitment to carbon reduction, Gov. Inslee's idea might sound like good policy. It's not. To find out why, read the rest of my article here.
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