Friends and Neighbors,
The 2017 regular session came to an end on Sunday, but it's only a formality.
I'm frustrated that the task of funding education is still ahead of us, and that special sessions have become a regular occurrence in Olympia. Again this year, budget negotiators are having a difficult time finding common ground. It is my hope that the key budget negotiators working in Olympia now will put the kids of Washington first by funding education using existing revenues.
Despite the frustrations of this special session, the regular session was good for the 20th District. Here are a few highlights and updates:
The transportation budget
The 2017-19 transportation budget, which has now been approved by both the House and Senate, will send $16.2 million back to the 20th District. Included is $10.9 million to rebuild the I-5/Chamber Way interchange.
Statewide, the budget will help recruit and retain highly qualified state troopers, repair roads and bridges, eliminate fish passage barriers, and continue implementation of Connecting Washington projects.
The 2017-19 capital budget, which is still being finalized, looks to provide funding for at least a dozen projects around the 20th District. A few significant projects and groups that are funded in each proposal include the following:
- Green Hill School security upgrades and recreation building replacement
- Chehalis Boys & Girls Club
- Woodland Scott Hill park
- Tenino Southwest WA Agricultural Business park
Funding for a few projects are still being worked on, all of which I hope will be included in the final budget, including the following:
- Kalama Falls Hatchery
- Castle Rock Fair LED lighting
- Centralia Fox Theatre restoration
- Tenino Forestry museum building
- Lewis County Fire District #1 Emergency Services building in Onalaska
- Rochester Boys & Girls Club
- Winlock infrastructure and economic development
Ultimately, a final budget will be negotiated during special session. I look forward to giving you further updates at that time.
The debates to fund education will continue in a special session, which began on Monday as key negotiators remained in Olympia to attempt to find common ground. Thus far, debates have been stale. Members of the House majority have refused to consider anything aside from a $8 billion tax increase, funded mostly by an unstable and unconstitutional capital gains income tax.
I'm hopeful the budget negotiators from both parties and chambers will begin to compromise by building a budget using existing revenue. After all, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) recently reported a $1.8 billion increase in revenue since February 2016.
With $1.8 billion dollars of new revenue, we should not be raising taxes to fund education.
When I am called back to Olympia to vote on an operating budget, I'll look forward to examining it closely and continuing to push to fund education using existing revenue.
Now that the regular legislative session has ended, I'll be returning to my home in Kalama. I'll be sure to send you more updates as negotiations over education funding continue.
The best way to contact me directly during the special session and the legislative interim is by email at Ed.Orcutt@leg.wa.gov.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you in Olympia.