Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The last day to consider Senate-approved bills was today, March 4. From now until the scheduled session end next Thursday, March 10, the focus will be on working out the differences in bills between the House and Senate. That includes supplemental operating and transportation budgets, which passed from the House last week.
Ridgefield student helps in the House
I enjoy helping students get involved with government, so I was proud to sponsor Jake Milanowski of Ridgefield who participated this week in the House page program. The page program is an opportunity for Washington students to spend a week working in the Legislature and is open to all students between the ages of 14 to 16. Jake is a freshman at Ridgefield High School where he is involved in the speech and debate team. He is the son of Jim and Erica Milanowski of Ridgefield.
Pike bill passes Senate
I am pleased to report House Bill 2511 passed the Senate with a unanimous vote today just before cutoff. The measure provides reforms within the Department of Early Learning. It will help keep quality child care more affordable for our working families by removing an agency-promulgated rule that required separate day care teachers for five- and six-year olds, depending on whether or not they are enrolled in school. This agency rule had no demonstrated benefit to children and resulted in raising the cost of child care. The measure must return to the House for concurrence, and then it goes to the governor to be signed into law.
Pike votes against budget proposal that relies on tax increases
On Feb. 25, House Democrats brought their supplemental operating budget to the House floor for a vote. I voted no.
My concern with this proposal includes its reliance on $119.5 million in new tax increases, proposed by Democrats, including a bottled water tax and elimination of the sales tax exemption for Oregon residents who shop in Washington. These are tax increase proposals we've seen before — many that have been repeatedly rebuffed in the Legislature or rejected by voters. Democrats have built their supplemental budget upon passage of these tax increases, even though they won't bring these tax increases up for a vote.
We also need to remember, this is a SUPPLEMENTAL operating budget, which should only be used to make adjustments to the two-year operating budget we passed last year. We should not be increasing spending to grow government programs, and we certainly do not need to increase taxes!
I'm also concerned this budget proposal relies too much on the Budget Stabilization Account and the use of an accounting gimmick to balance the four-year outlook.
The good news is the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has proposed a more balanced, fiscally responsible alternative. It does not rely on new tax increases and does not raid the Budget Stabilization Account.
Pike budget amendments accepted
As I noted in this e-newsletter last week, we offered 35 amendments during the supplemental operating budget debate. Mine was one of only nine accepted. It would require the Department of Ecology to report to the Legislature by September 2016 on how many private sector refuse and recycling haulers have been engaged in electronic waste recycling. I believe we should encourage more private-sector participation for greater efficiency and increased recycling of e-waste.
That same afternoon, we debated the House transportation supplemental operating budget. Lawmakers approved an amendment I offered that would provide $300,000 to pay for initial environmental permitting and design costs for reconstruction of the bridge trestle on the Chelatchie Prairie short line railroad, located at mile post 12.45. The total cost is $1.9 million. This approved appropriation demonstrates a commitment by House Transportation Committee leadership to fund this project.
It's my hope that both of these amendments stay intact in the final budget proposals we expect to vote on before the Legislature adjourns next Thursday.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"