Friends and Neighbors,
I'd like to begin by thanking those of you who participated in my telephone town hall meeting with Sen. John Braun last Monday night. Nearly 500 constituents joined in to ask us questions, exchange ideas and listen to updates on the 2018 session. These events are very important to me as hearing from you helps inform my decisions as a state lawmaker. Thank you.
Supplemental state budgets
The House and Senate released their respective operating, capital and transportation budgets last week. “Supplemental” essentially means midcourse adjustments to budgets in the two-year cycle that runs from the middle of 2017 to the middle of 2019.
With the Senate majority switching mid-term, one party now controls the budget process. They put forth proposals, hold committee hearings, advance budgets out of committees, and pass them out of their respective chambers. After they pass the House and Senate, budget writers come together, reconcile areas of differences and develop final proposals.
The 20th District influence on state budgets
With a closely divided Legislature, Republicans still have a lot of influence on the budget process. The 20th District, in particular, is well represented on the three committees that write the state budgets. I am the ranking minority member on the House Transportation Committee, Sen. John Braun is the ranking minority member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Richard DeBolt is the ranking minority member on the House Capital Budget Committee. We all play a key role in helping craft these state budgets.
House supplemental transportation budget
We entered supplemental transportation budget negotiations with goals and a framework for decision-making.
First, we identified what the emergent needs are since the transportation budget was enacted last year. Has a road washed out? Has a bridge's condition deteriorated? Is there a new safety concern?
Second, we looked for minor, technical errors and fixed them. These mistakes happen, despite our best intentions. The supplemental budget allows us to correct them each even-numbered year.
Third, we examined new opportunities and how to best pursue them.
This process produced what I feel was a reasonable House supplemental transportation budget. The proposal would increase the 2017-19 transportation budget from $8.5 billion to $9.3 billion. While that looks like a large increase, much of that is due to work which did not get completed in the previous budget. So the money and the responsibility for the work is transferred from the last budget into this one – no new spending, just a change in which budget it occurs. We refer to this as re-appropriations and it accounts for $458 million of the increase. And, some projects are advanced from a future budget into the current budget – most of the remaining $200 million in additional construction. But, we also had a $151 million increase in operating programs, some of which is due to federal and safety requirements.
On the local level, the House budget also provides $3 million for the I-5/Mellen Street Connector project. This comes from savings realized on another project, capturing it to complete this important project to foster economic development.
The supplemental transportation budget is expected to reach the floor for a full vote tomorrow. I supported the House version as it advanced from committee and expect to support passage from the House floor.
When the House and Senate both pass their proposals, transportation leaders – including myself – will get together to reconcile the differences between these budgets and craft a final budget to pass from both chambers and send to the governor. I look forward to participating in and completing this process.
Supplemental operating budget and capital gains income tax
The House majority passed their supplemental operating budget on a 50-46 vote tonight. I voted against the measure, primarily because it relies on establishing a new capital gains income tax. We know this would be a step toward a state income tax and challenged in our court system. It would also be a volatile revenue source. And, the budget failed to give our retirees an adequate – and much needed – cost of living adjustment.
We don't need to raise taxes on individuals and families. We have seen huge increases in revenue since we passed the budget last June, so we should be prioritizing property tax relief for all taxpayers and cost of living adjustments for our retirees.
There are several big decisions which need to be made in the final 10 days of session. Here are some of them:
- Property-tax relief – I support such relief and to provide it this year;
- Prevent passage of the proposed new capital gains income tax that is assumed in the House supplemental operating budget;
- Prevent passage of the governor's controversial carbon tax proposal that the Senate is pushing forth; and
- Provide meaningful help to bring broadband to underserved areas of our state.
It should be interesting to see how these issues play out. I will keep you updated.
Thanks for reading my email update. If you have any questions or ideas to pass along, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 786-7990.