Friends and Neighbors,
Well, we're on day 25 of the 60-day regular session with still no budget from either the House or Senate. I was hoping that we could make some immediate headway toward a long-term budget solution; at least that's what majority party budget writers told us last December when the Legislature only addressed less than a quarter of the state's projected budget shortfall. Sadly, though, we're nearly half-way through the session and we haven't seen many substantive solutions come through the House Ways and Means Committee.
But I do have some good news – for the first time in state history, House Republicans introduced a complete K-12 education budget proposal, called “Fund Education First.”
Fund Education First
Our Fund Education First legislation, House Bill 2533, would require the Legislature to pass a separate K-12 education budget before any other state appropriations. We already do this for our state's transportation and capital budgets. If education is truly our state's highest priority – and I believe it is, as does the state Supreme Court – then that should be reflected in our budget priorities.
But we didn't stop at just the policy level of REQUIRING an education budget first – we actually created a complete budget document – the first budget of any kind in the 2012 session. I wish we could compare our education budget proposal (HB 2770) with the official House or Senate education budget. But like I said earlier, they don't exist yet. So, at this point, our only comparison is to Gov. Gregoire's budget proposal.
If you recall, the governor's proposed supplemental operating budget recommends cutting K-12 education funding by $630.1 million and buying these and other cuts back through a three-year, 0.5 percent increase in the state sales tax rate. Our plan would allocate $13.66 billion to K-12 education – representing a $45.9 million, or 0.3 percent, reduction from the current operating budget. And, we would not raise taxes.
The governor's plan would cut levy equalization by $152 million and shorten the school year by four days to save another $99 million. Our plan would prioritize and fully fund both of these areas. The governor would also make an apportionment shift to defer a $340 million payment into the future, while the House Republican education budget would prevent this accounting gimmick.
Our Fund Education First plan is the first step in rolling out our own budget plan to show how we can balance our budget, fully fund education and public safety, and protect the most vulnerable – all within existing revenues, which are expected to be about $2,000,000,000.00 higher than the last biennium.
As most of you know, there has been an enormous effort this year to change the traditional definition of marriage. Few bills ever move through the Legislative process so fast. I know many of you have contacted my office on this issue – thank you! This is a sensitive issue for many, with passionate arguments on both sides. The bill passed the Senate this week and will now work its way through the committee process in the House. I have decided not to support this bill. The issues before us and the decisions I must make here in Olympia have real effects on real people. It is my duty to hear all sides and ascertain what is best for the citizens of my district and the state. It is a responsibility I take very seriously and am honored that you place your trust in me to help decide these issues. Furthermore, I am disappointed that this bill was brought forward – especially this session as I believe it has distracted legislators from getting to the real issues of fixing our state's budget shortfall and getting people back to work. If and when it comes up for a vote in the state House of Representatives, I will be voting no.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to represent and serve you in Olympia. Always feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns.