Friends and Neighbors,
The 2013 legislative session is in full swing. A new governor has been sworn in and a new, bipartisan majority coalition now controls the Senate. In the House, Democrats continue to hold a significant majority (55-43). There are several new faces all around as we begin discussions on how to fully fund education, protect our most vulnerable citizens, keep our communities and families safe, and free up the private sector to create more jobs so that we can Get Washington Working Again!
As most of you have heard me say in the past, our state is expecting to take in between $1.5 billion and $2 billion more in tax collections during this next two-year budget cycle. However, because state government continues to spend more than the taxes you pay, we're once again facing a budget shortfall for the 2013-15 biennium of nearly a billion dollars. When you add to that the estimated billion-dollar down payment in education required by the Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision, legislators will be looking to fill an estimated $2 billion budget hole. It's a task that can be done without raising taxes. As the session progresses, I'll talk more about our plans to fund education first and balance our state budget within existing tax dollars.
The issue of a two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes is once again heating up. The voters in this state have repeatedly supported this concept at the ballot box – and the majority party in Olympia has repeatedly overturned this taxpayer protection every chance they get. This year, I will be introducing the Taxpayer Protection Act into the State Constitution, thereby preventing ANY majority party in Olympia (Republican or Democrat) from passing tax increases without a two-thirds vote.
We're also going to propose a specific rule on the House floor that says no tax increase bill can pass the House of Representatives and go over to the Senate for consideration unless it has the support of two-thirds of the House members. We want the members of the House of Representatives to stand up for the taxpayers of this state so they can focus on providing for their families – not worry about Olympia coming after their wallets.
Another change we're proposing is to give more consideration to citizen testimony when testifying in legislative committees. This means, citizens would get to testify FIRST and be allowed more time while testifying. Too many times, we hear from agency after agency; lobbyist after lobbyist; association after association – and while each of these serves a role, nothing – NOTHING – should be more important than the testimony of that farmer, small-business owner, forester, rancher, or concerned citizen that takes time off of work and drives hundreds of miles in order to get five minutes with a legislative committee.
I also wanted to let you know that I've been chosen to be the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee. This is a new assignment for me and I'm excited to learn more about the transportation issues impacting all Washingtonians – but I will certainly keep the issues and priorities of my Southwest Washington constituents in mind as we come up with solutions to our state's transportation needs.
I'll continue to update you throughout the 2013 session. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about state government or proposed legislation, please don't hesitate to contact my office. It continues to be a great honor and privilege to serve you in the Washington State House of Representatives.