Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2013 legislative session is underway. However, before I give you an early session update I want to say thank you for all your support during my first term. I am very appreciative of you returning me to Olympia for a second go around. With my first term under my belt, I look forward to building off of that experience. I am now a member of our caucus leadership team, as Republican whip, and have established relationships on both sides of the aisle.
This session has some very interesting dynamics and we need to work together if we are going to address the priority issues in an effective manner. We have a new governor who pledged not to raise taxes during his campaign, but is already backtracking. Read: Inslee: Extending expiring taxes not an increase. We also have a very fragile Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate made up of 23 Republicans and two Democrats. Obviously, if one senator sways on any issue the coalition can be thrown off. The important thing to remember about the Senate is that no matter who is in control everyone will have to put forth a collaborative effort with a 25-24 split.
Our caucus will continue to push our Fund Education First proposal, protect our state’s most vulnerable, fund public safety and work to ensure we pass a fiscally responsible, no-new-taxes budget. Our state is expecting to take in between $1.5 and $2 billion more in tax collections during this next two-year budget cycle. Unfortunately, because past legislatures have spent more than the tax collections coming in, we are currently looking at budget deficit of roughly $900 million. Then, when you consider the estimated billion-dollar down payment in education required by the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, the Legislature will have close to a $2 billion budget hole to fill. We will discuss the budget in more detail as the session progresses.
Every two years, the House adopts rules on how they operate. It is usually done with little fanfare or debate. However, this session our caucus has decided the rules need to be more about the people and what they support. We have come up with four proposed rule changes that would benefit taxpayers, assist in funding education, and giving citizens more of a say in public hearing process.
First, we want to place the supermajority vote provisions of Initiative 1185 into House Rules. There is a chance I-1185 will get thrown out by the courts…despite voters having enacted or reaffirmed the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases five times since 1993. The 17th Legislative District supported I-1185 with 72 percent of the vote. It passed in every county in the state…and 44 out of 49 Legislative Districts.
Second, we want to prioritize citizen testimony in committees. People who take the time to come to the Capitol to share their views should be given priority over the Olympia insiders and lobbyists. We often know where the Olympia insiders stand on the issues, but we need to hear from you, the taxpayers, on how proposed laws will impact you. This also makes us more accountable.
Third, we wanted to put into rule our Fund Education First proposal. Our caucus has proposed a version of this proposal since 2006. It is time we fully-fund education not only to be in compliance with the McCleary decision, but education should no longer be used as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations. Kids and schools should not be held hostage so the majority party can propose tax increases and increase spending.
Finally, we wanted to see each legislator get a public hearing on at least one of their bills. Legislators represent districts with about 137,000 people. It shows bipartisanship and a willingness to represent and listen to concerns from all districts across the state.
As the 2013 session progresses, I will continue to update you. However, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about proposed legislation or state government. It is an honor to serve you in the Washington State House of Representatives.