Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the lack of agreement on a budget between the budget writers in the majority parties, the governor called for a second special session that begins today. The main argument between the majority parties is whether to pass new or increased taxes. The governor and House Democrats contend we need more taxes to fund the budget, while Senate Republicans have proposed two budget proposals that balance without increasing taxes. It's time for us to finish the job we were sent to Olympia to do.
Our state is now expecting $3.2 billion more this budget cycle than the last one – a 9.2% revenue increase. We have plenty of resources from taxpayers to fully fund education, protect the most vulnerable and ensure public safety.
Speaking of education, I've been hearing from many teachers and parents lately, frustrated about the failures of past Legislatures to adequately fund education and compensate teachers. I want to make clear where I stand on the major issues brought to me:
- Teacher COLAs: I am pleased to share that COLAs are funded for the first time since 2009 in both the House Democrat and Senate Republican budgets. This is a good first step to fund the COLAs that voters supported and that teachers deserve.
- Legislator Pay: Many teachers have expressed frustration that members of the Legislature are receiving raises despite the historical suspension of teacher COLAs. As you might know, legislators don't set their own pay – that's the job of an independent citizen commission. I disagree with these raises, which is why I and several other legislators have chosen to donate our pay increases.
- Testing in the Classroom: I serve on the House Education Committee, which deals with policies related to teaching. We've heard about and discussed testing at length. My daughter graduates from South Kitsap High School this year, and I have personally seen the detrimental impact that inefficient and onerous testing requirements have placed on her education. There needs to be a better balance with the quality and quantity of student testing, as well as a sensible interpretation of those test scores.
Last week, Rep. Jesse Young and I sat down with a group of teachers from the South Kitsap School District (see included photo). We heard their frustrations loud and clear, and as new legislators, we are working to change the old way of funding education. I've visited several schools already, and have several more visits planned this summer.
I would like to hear from you as well. I've always had an open-door policy at my office in Olympia. I'd like to extend that invitation to meet with you, your group or in your classroom in our district. Please email me with some dates and times and my office will coordinate a time that works for both of us.
Though my work in Olympia is not done for the year, I want to thank you for making my first legislative session so constructive. It has been an honor to help advocate on your behalf, to fight for the vulnerable, and to get to know you, the people I work for. Please feel free to contact me by phone or email. My information is below.