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Friends and Neighbors,
Since the last time I wrote to you, House Democrats have introduced their three state budget proposals: operating, transportation and capital. Below you will find more information on these state spending plans, including how I voted on the operating and transportation budgets and why I support the capital budget.
In the remaining 16 days of the legislative session, the House and Senate will need to reconcile their respective state budgets and agree on final versions. This, in addition to considering and voting on several amendments and other pieces of legislation. A lot of work remains to be done.
The operating budget is the largest state budget. The majority party's 2023-25 operating budget proposes spending about $70 billion, a $6 billion (9.4%) increase over current spending levels. This approach would continue a trend of massive budget growth that is unsustainable. For perspective, spending has more than doubled over the last decade. Another problem, especially given our state's economic uncertainty, is the small ending fund balance.
I voted against Senate Bill 5187 on Monday for these reasons. I also don't think the plan does enough for special education funding and helping students recover from learning loss caused by in-class instruction being shut down during the pandemic. We cannot forget that our state's “paramount duty” is public education, as emphasized in our state constitution.
House Republicans introduced amendments related to these K-12 education issues, as well as for public safety, tax relief, homeless encampment cleanup, and helping our agricultural communities — to name a few — but the majority party voted them down. I am skeptical that when House and Senate Democrats negotiate the final version, they can address the concerns I have outlined. But time will tell. If not, I will again be voting “no.”
I shared my thought on this budget proposal in my video update last week.
As the ranking member of the House Finance Committee, I am also paying close attention to any new tax-increase proposal emerging in the homestretch of the legislative session — including raising real estate excise taxes (REET). The last thing we want to do, especially when we have made progress on addressing our housing crisis this year, is pass legislation that would make housing more expensive and increase rents. I will oppose this measure and numerous other tax-increase bills that come forward.
As a former ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, I have been directly involved with the bipartisan development of this budget in the past. It is a long, detail-oriented process that requires several decisions. When you are in the minority party, you do your best to influence state budgets and other legislation. But you also understand you do not always get everything you want.
The House Democrats' 2023-25 transportation budget proposes spending $13.2 billion, including $9.8 billion for WSDOT ($1.2 billion for Washingtonian State Ferries), $646 million for Washington State Patrol, and $418 million for the Department of Licensing. It reflects a lot of policies and projects supported by House Republicans but also includes some things we would not do if we were leading the process.
The House Transportation Committee chair included House Republicans in developing this proposal, and I voted for House Bill 1125 on Monday because I think it represents true bipartisan work. It makes important investments in infrastructure (including local projects) and programs. While it is not a perfect budget, the good outweighs the bad on whole. I am hopeful the final plan will also reflect bipartisan work and votes, but we will have to wait and see.
The House's 2023-25 capital budget appropriates $8.38 billion, including $4.18 billion in newly authorized bonds, and leaves $158 million for next year's supplemental capital budget. I reference “House” above, not “House Democrats,” because this budget is truly bipartisan, and differences are often between the respective chambers and not the two parties.
House Bill 1147 has not been voted on yet. However, I support the legislation in its current form because it makes critical investments in K-12 education construction, housing, behavioral health, and projects in communities across our state. If you visit this website, select “20th Legislative District” in the “District” field, and click on “View Report,” you can learn more about several projects for the 20th District.
Staying in touch
It is going to be a busy last two weeks, with long hours in caucus and voting on the House floor. TVW is a great way to watch legislative action in real-time. Please contact me if you have any ideas, concerns or questions.
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