Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the state Capitol, today (Friday, March 18) marks the end of the first week of the special session. Last week, as I noted in my email update, lawmakers adjourned the 60-day special session on Thursday, March 10. However, because an agreement had not yet been reached on a supplemental operating budget, Gov. Jay Inslee called an immediate special session and then made good on his threat to veto bills because a budget had not been sent to him by the end of the regular session. Of 37 Senate bills sent to the governor, he vetoed 27 of them — the largest blanket veto of bills in the history of Washington.
Most legislators return home
Last Friday, there were a lot of lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — frustrated and upset the Legislature was going into special session and that the governor had vetoed so many bills authored by legislators from both parties and passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. By the end of Friday, most lawmakers, except for those negotiating the budget, had gone home to their districts and spent this past week waiting to see if they would be called back to Olympia.
A lot of community time as we wait for a budget vote
Like most legislators, I was home this week — back in Camas — and working across the district after being in Olympia for the past two months. I helped with spring cleaning at Clark Rifles Gun Club in Brush Prairie and then served meals at the Share House homeless shelter in Vancouver. I also attended an editorial board meeting yesterday at The Columbian, where I discussed the need to fix the I-5 corridor as one of my highest priorities. You can read the resulting article of that meeting here.
It was great to be back in the communities here in the district that I love and to volunteer my time to help. Like most legislators, I also kept a close eye on my email to see if we would receive a 24-hour notice to return to Olympia for a budget vote. Unfortunately, it didn't happen this week.
What's the hold-up on the budget?
As I noted in last week's email update, Democrats who hold a thin majority in the House have taken some unreasonable positions:
- They have proposed $120 million in new and higher taxes, including elimination of the non-resident tax exemption (which brings business to Clark County from Oregon residents). Yet, the Democrats don't even have enough votes within their own caucus to pass these tax increases, so they've never brought these proposals to the floor for a vote. Bottom line – We don't need tax increases that would hurt our state's economy. State government should live within its means!
- They wish to deplete the state's Rainy Day fund. This is a very bad idea and would leave our state vulnerable for the inevitable economic downturn.
- Their supplemental operating budget proposal that relies on tax increases only balances for two years. It spends far more than the state will take in and could force further tax increases in future years. In 2012, the Legislature passed a requirement that all operating budgets balance over the term of four years. We need to abide by that law.
Progress underway on budget negotiations
We hear progress is being made on budget negotiations. Reports are that the House Democrats and Senate Republicans are only about $300 million apart on supplemental operating budget negotiations. While that may sound like a lot, it's miniscule when compared to the overall two-year $38 billion (with a “B”) state operating budget.
A report this morning from one of the Senate Republican leaders is that a tentative agreement has been reached with House Democrats on the health care component of the supplemental operating budget. Both sides plan to meet today to discuss natural resources and how to pay for suppression of last summer's wildfires. And then, this weekend, those involved with the education funding component of the budget plan to meet, which is the last and largest source of disagreement. If they can reach agreement by Monday, there's a strong possibility members of the House and Senate could be called back to Olympia to vote on a supplemental operating budget by Wednesday or Thursday of next week. Let's hope so!
New legislative assistant to serve you!
I am so pleased to announce I have a new legislative assistant. Shelby Pelon has worked in the Washington State House of Representatives for just more than a year, most recently serving as legislative assistant for Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy. Shelby is a graduate of Eastern Washington University, where she studied government. Because she lives in Olympia, I will not be opening an office in district, but will be having her staff my Olympia office fulltime throughout the year. As always, I am available to meet with constituents across the district.
Hopefully, by this time next week, the Legislature will have reached an agreement, passed an operating budget, and concluded business for this year. Regardless of whether or not we are in session, I work for you throughout the entire year. Please contact my office in Olympia any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government and legislation. You'll find my contact information below.
It is my highest honor to serve and represent you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"