Friends and Neighbors,
As most of you know, the Legislature met for special session last month in an effort to solve our state's projected $2 billion shortfall. Many of my colleagues and I were prepared to come to Olympia and solve the entire budget problem and focus on getting our 300,000 unemployed citizens back to work.
That didn't happen.
The special session lasted a few weeks and budget leaders cobbled together a mixture of budget fund transfers, early savings and other budget gimmicks to solve about one-quarter of the budget shortfall.
I supported this proposal in the end because I felt that some action was better than no action at all. But in this case, I believe we could have – and should have – done much more to get our state's spending back in line with revenues.
Speaking of revenue, you might find it interesting that the state's revenues are expected to grow about 6.9 percent over the next two years. Think about that – 6.9 percent! I doubt many families in our state can say the same thing about their revenues. And that is $ 2 BILLION more than we took in for the last budget.
Yet, even with this expected revenue increase, there is already talk of raising taxes.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: the minute folks start talking about tax increases, all efforts towards prioritizing spending and making significant government reforms simply vanish.
This isn't right. I believe we can balance this budget, fund education, protect our communities, and deliver services to the most vulnerable among us within our existing revenues.
However, while we're debating the budget shortfall in Olympia and looking at solutions to our state's spending issues, we have to remember the state's paramount duty: education.
The recent State Supreme Court decision once again emphasizes the fact that education is the state's number one priority – and I agree. I believe we should fund education first. Education should get the first dollar from the state's budget, not the last.
My House Republican colleagues and I have a proposal in the works that will do just that – create a separate “education budget” that demands the state fund basic education. I hope you will support us in this effort.
And once again, as I make decisions in Olympia this year, I will continue to weigh whether a proposal helps create jobs in Washington or hurts job creation.
In her “state-of-the-state” speech, Governor Chris Gregoire called for a new $1.50 tax on each barrel of oil produced in this state. In her mind, this is how we create more jobs – government jobs in the form of new infrastructure projects.
But I believe we need privately funded long-term investment jobs, not short-term government-funded, taxpayer-dependent jobs.
And her sales tax proposal? In my mind, the governor has put education, public safety and our most vulnerable at the bottom of the priority list by continuing to request tax increases to fund these priority services. Remember, we didn't get Boeing to build the 787 in Washington by raising their taxes – we did it by lowering their tax rates.
This year, I'll once again be working on solutions to help give employers the certainty they need to begin hiring again and expanding their operations. We need a strong, thriving private sector to help grow our economy and to Get Washington Working Again!
As always, I value your input. Please feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns. It is a privilege and honor to serve you in Olympia.
FYI – Redistricting
Every ten years, shortly after each federal census, Washington state goes through a redistricting process so that legislative and congressional districts are balanced by population. On January 1, the Washington State Redistricting Commission adopted a plan to redraw lines for legislative and congressional districts. Here is the final legislative map unanimously adopted by the bipartisan commission after a year-long process. The final detailed report to the Legislature was published on Jan. 9. The Legislature may vote to make very minor adjustments within 30 days but does not vote on the overall plan. After this, with or without changes, the redistricting plan becomes law. The new districts will take effect for the November election this year, so I will continue representing citizens of the 18th district throughout this year.
FYI – State's Chief economist to step down
Dr. Arun Raha (in the photo with me on the right), chief economist and executive director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, is stepping down at the end of January. As the state's chief economist, Raha gave quarterly reports to the council to updat
e us on the state's expected revenue collections. As a member of the council and current Chair, I've had the privilege of working with Dr. Raha over the past few years. His economic insight and witty sense of humor will be missed. To read my press release on Raha's departure, click here. Upon hearing the news from Dr. Raha, I have worked with fellow council members to find an interim forecaster in order to assure we have someone to prepare a credible forecast upon which we can base our budget decisions in this session. We are fortunate to have Steve Lerch once again serve as interim forecaster – just as he did when we were in the process of hiring Dr. Raha. Steve is very capable and ready to step in to the position.