Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Since I last wrote you, the first special session has come and gone, and the governor called us back into a second special session, which began Wednesday, June 12. The challenge remains adopting a 2013-15 budget that balances $2 billion more in revenues within expected caseloads, while increasing our constitutional obligation to education as required by the state Supreme Court. As I wrote in my monthly column in the Yakima Valley Business Times last month, there are two approaches to the budget coming from the House and Senate: passing tax increases to pay for education, and paying for education within existing revenues.
Recently, the House Democrats and Senate coalition each introduced new budget proposals. The House Democrats dropped their initial $1.3 billion tax increase proposals to $595 million. They say these tax increases are needed to fund education. However, the Senate Coalition budget funded education with $1.5 billion more than the last budget, without holding our classrooms hostage to a tax increase. The Senate appears agreeable to a tax increase on out-of-state shoppers and responding to two Supreme Court cases that will result in revenue. The Senate wants to fund education first in the general fund, then use the new funding for social programs.
Though there has not yet been a formal agreement, both of these proposals indicate a willingness to negotiate and pass a budget. Despite what you may hear from the governor, a government shutdown is not imminent. Unlike Washington, D.C., we are constitutionally required to pass a budget in Olympia. Never before has the state government shut down due to a lack of agreement on a budget, and it is not necessary now. I have confidence the Legislature can and will find agreement in time for the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
I will continue fighting for your jobs, your families and your hard-earned tax dollars. Please don't hesitate to contact my office anytime with questions, comments or concerns. It's an honor to represent you in Olympia.