Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For the past few weeks, House committees have been hearing Senate bills, while Senate committees have been hearing House bills. With a split Legislature — Democrats narrowly control the state House and Republicans narrowly control the state Senate — it's always interesting to see where common ground is found between the two chambers. The reality is many of the bills that originated and were approved in the House will not make it out of the Senate, and vice versa.
Yesterday marked opposite house policy committee cutoff. This means all House bills without a fiscal impact that did not advance out of their respective policy committees in the opposite chamber are now considered dead for the year. Next Tuesday marks opposite house fiscal committee cutoff. Bills that do have a fiscal impact must pass out of appropriations committees in the opposite chamber or they also will be considered dead for the year.
Along with bills continuing to be heard in legislative committees, operating budget proposals from the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) and the House Democrats are now on the table. While both plans increase spending by more than 10 percent, the MCC's plan doesn't rely on any new or major tax increases, while the House Democrats' plan calls for $8 billion in new taxes.
When it comes to education funding, the MCC's plan would fundamentally reform our regressive levy system, replacing it with a flat, statewide local effort property tax. This new education funding system would bring tax relief to many in the 26th District.
Taxpayer impact of the MCC's education funding plan according to Senate fiscal documents:
- Bremerton School District: $322 property tax decrease for the average homeowner.
- Peninsula School District: $247 property tax decrease for the average homeowner.
- South Kitsap School District: $414 property tax decrease for the average homeowner.
Both plans provide billions in new K-12 spending, which means K-12 education funding would represent more than 50 percent of the operating budget for the first time since 1983. By the time the MCC's plan was fully implemented in school year 2020-21, it would allocate $12,268 per pupil on average. The House Democrats' plan would allocate $12,419 per pupil on average.
While neither plan is perfect, the MCC's proposal provides a good starting point for negotiations. It doesn't raise taxes unnecessarily (the latest revenue forecast was very positive), and it creates a sustainable education funding system going forward.
Due to the major differences in the two plans, it may not be realistic to expect an agreement to be reached before sine die on April 23. In fact, because of the desire by some to raise taxes, a repeat of the 2015 legislative session — in which we needed three special sessions — is more likely than not.
If you would like specifics on any particular area within the two budget proposals, please send me an email and I'll get back to you promptly.
The 2017-19 capital budget
The capital budget is known as the “bricks and mortar” budget. It provides funds for the building of public schools, higher education facilities, state buildings, public lands, parks, and other assets. It's around a $4 billion budget every biennium, with funding coming from a combination of debt and cash.
Last session, we were able to secure capital budget funding for the following projects in the 26th District:
- $46 million for a College Instruction Center at Olympic College.
- $662,000 for a restoration project in Gig Harbor.
- $500,000 for the Dekalb Street Pier in Port Orchard.
- $100,000 for Admiral Theater renovation in Bremerton.
- $50,000 for the Key Pen Civics Center to fix their HVAC system.
- $300,000 for repairs to the U.S.S. Turner Joy, which is docked in Bremerton.
In total, about $93 million was invested in a variety of community and infrastructure projects across our district. This session, I'm working hard to secure funding in the 2017-19 capital budget for other much-needed projects in our district. While the budget is not yet finalized, a list of proposed projects is here.
Page for a day Mia Hansen
While the House Page Program is for students 14-16 years of age, younger students can also come to Olympia to be a page for a day. I had the privilege of sponsoring 7th grader Mia Hansen as a page here in the House yesterday. I was able to introduce her to my House Republican colleagues in caucus, and really enjoyed getting to know her over lunch. I was impressed that she came prepared with a list of questions for me! If you know of someone who would like to serve in the House Page Program or be a page for a day, please send me an email.
Please continue contacting me with your thoughts and questions about the 2017 legislative session. I also encourage you to contact my legislative assistant, Tori Benson, to set up a time to meet with me. I have an open-door policy and will absolutely make time to meet with you if you schedule an appointment and come down to Olympia. Even if you don't have time to schedule a meeting and still want to chat with me, Tori will be able to pull me out of committee or off the floor.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.