Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I was pleased to read that Sunnyside High School has dramatically improved graduation rates and will be eligible to be removed from a watch list of struggling schools. The administration, teachers and students underwent some major changes that clearly made a difference, and I want to recognize their accomplishment of obtaining about 80 percent graduation rates.
This year's legislative session is at the end of the 13th week, with just two weeks to go. We're now shifting focus to the budgets: operating, transportation and capital. The operating budget determines the day-to-day operations of the state, so it is the largest. The 2013-15 budget will bring in about $2 billion more than the current 2011-13 budget. In spite of additional money, there are several approaches to adopting a budget.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget proposal
A bipartisan group in the Senate, known as the Majority Coalition Caucus, passed a budget last week which includes no new taxes. The budget includes additional focused funding for education outcomes, funding for state parks, and it protects the most vulnerable. This budget proposes to spend the least out of all the proposals, and leaves the most in reserves. What's noteworthy is that this budget was passed with 30 “yes” votes – including seven Democrats from the minority caucus.
The governor's budget outline and House Democrat budget proposal
The governor introduced his budget 'outline' the two weeks ago. It was not a full proposal, but provided his ideas for balancing the budget and meeting the obligations of the state after the McCleary court ruling. This week, House Democrats introduced their proposal. The two proposals are very similar – both suggest increasing taxes by $1.2 billion. They suggest doing this by closing tax incentives on everything from beer to bottled water and increasing taxes on small businesses. Look for my column in the Yakima Valley Business Times on April 26 discussing tax incentives. Late last night, the House Appropriations Committee on which I serve voted on the House Democrat proposal – I voted “no.” The full House may vote on the House Democrat budget this evening.
Next, the Senate and House budgets will have to be reconciled. My hope is that we can work in a bipartisan manner to do what is best for the citizens of this state, being responsible with their hard-earned tax dollars and providing them the best value.
Policy bills moving forward
Several policy related bills are also moving forward:
- House Bill 1200 to require accurate labeling of seafood could come up for a vote in the Senate anytime. This is a good consumer protection bill that ensures food safety and truth in advertising.
- House Bill 1072 to provide additional training to turn agriculture jobs into fulfilling careers is still in discussions. The biggest question is which agency should administer the program.
- House Bill 1889 to help Yakima County better address the apple maggot passed the Senate unanimously yesterday.
I encourage you to stay informed and involved as the legislative session wraps up. I will continue to provide information through these e-mails, so I encourage you to forward them to friends and family so they can sign up.
It's an honor to serve you – please feel free to contact my office anytime with questions or comments.