Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Tuesday morning, the Legislature completed its first 30-day special session. Unfortunately, there is still no agreement on a state operating budget. That's why Gov. Jay Inslee called an immediate second 30-day special session at noon Tuesday.
For the first time, the governor acknowledged there aren't enough votes in either the House or Senate to pass a capital gains state income tax. However, he also said Democrats would not accept higher property taxes in property-rich areas proposed by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (SMCC) as part of its local levy reform package. Inslee called on budget negotiators to find other ways to fund K-12 education.
In the meantime, bipartisan Education Funding Task Force negotiators are continuing their important work. The eight-member group, with two members from each legislative caucus, say they are making progress toward an education-funding solution – including how we pay teachers and end the state's overreliance on local levies. Both budget proposals would increase starting teacher pay by as much as $10,000 and provide $13,000 in per pupil funding. For the first time since 1983, basic education funding is set to represent more than 50 percent of the operating budget.
While budget negotiations are underway, I would caution you not to take rumors about the proposals seriously. There's a lot of misinformation floating about. What I can tell you is that neither proposal by House Democrats or the SMCC will be the final compromise plan. Although I am not part of the core group of budget negotiators, I encourage you to contact me if you have questions. I will be happy to verify factual information with nonpartisan Office of Financial Management staff.
Finally, I understand the frustration of beginning a second special session without a budget agreement. However, past special sessions have produced bipartisan operating budgets with great results for our state. I remain optimistic about the outcomes ahead.
The future of foster care — Join me for a town hall meeting June 10
Aside from the operating budget discussions, I am continuing to work on several bipartisan bills that are necessary to implement the budget, including legislation to improve our state's foster care system.
House Bill 1661 is among the reforms I support. The measure, which passed the House yesterday for the third time, would move Children's Administration out of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and merge it with the Department of Early Learning. This would create a system of checks and balances that doesn't exist within DSHS, the state's largest agency, and help reverse the culture of dysfunction in the state's foster care system.
While this is one way to improve oversight of foster care in Washington, there are many other things we can do. However, it takes involvement and input from our citizens. I want to know what you would like to see for the future of foster care in our state.
I am holding a Foster Care Town Hall Meeting in the Gig Harbor City Hall on Saturday, June 10 at 10 a.m. Rep. Ruth Kagi, chair of the Early Learning and Human Services Committee, will be my guest. She is also the prime sponsor of House Bill 1661, which I described above. I encourage you to attend and bring your ideas.
Please mark your calendar:
WHAT: Foster Care Town Hall Meeting with Rep. Michelle Caldier
WHERE: Gig Harbor City Hall – 3510 Grandview St.
WHEN: 10 a.m., Saturday, June 10
Meet Aaron Hallenberg, my new legislative assistant
I am pleased to welcome Aaron Hallenberg as my new legislative assistant. He will be the friendly voice that answers the phone when you call my office in Olympia.
Aaron grew up in Tacoma. He graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana where he studied psychology, sociology and political science. He returned to Washington state and most recently worked in the Senate with Sen. Hans Zeiger. Aaron enjoys soccer and outdoor activities. I'm very excited to have him on our team!
Let us always remember those who sacrificed for us
This is Memorial Day weekend — a time when many of us get together with our friends and families, have the first outdoor barbecue of the season, and maybe go camping or walking along the beach if the weather is nice. I hope you are able to take time over the weekend to attend a service in honor of our fallen soldiers, visit the war memorials at the state Capitol, or just pause and remember the service and sacrifice they gave so that you could enjoy your friends and family this weekend.
American soldiers have always answered the call, no matter what the price, fighting in the most unimaginable conditions to protect and preserve what we cherish the most about our nation — freedom. I'm proud that my grandfather was among them. A photo of his 1946 uniform is above.
As Ronald Reagan once said, “Our liberties, our values, all for which America stands, is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front. And we thank God for them!”
Have a great Memorial Day weekend! Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you.