Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The cherry trees are in full bloom at the state Capitol as we begin the final month of our scheduled 105-day regular session. On Friday, House Democrats passed their proposed two-year state operating budget from the House floor. There's movement in the Senate on my bills. And thanks to all of you, I had very successful town halls across the 26th District.
Here's the latest news from Olympia. . .
House approves two-year, $53 billion state operating budget on a party-line vote
On Friday, after several hours of debate, a two-year (2019-21) state operating budget that would spend a record $53 billion passed off the House floor on a party-line vote, 56-38, with Republicans, including myself, voting no.
- Despite historical revenue growth and a $3 billion surplus, this budget would rely on more than $4 billion in increased taxes over the next four years.
- The majority party is proposing to tax income from capital gains. That's an income tax, which is likely unconstitutional and may be challenged in court. If our state budget is partially based on revenue from this tax and it is thrown out of court, the budget will not be balanced. They also want to increase real estate excise taxes, property taxes and business and occupation taxes.
- Economists expect an economic downturn within 2020 or 2021. Tax increases could accelerate a slowing economy. The proposal commits every last dollar, ensuring that any economic downturn would require painful cuts.
- Under this budget plan, spending will have increased by 70 percent since 2013. This level of explosive growth is not responsible nor sustainable.
- There is really no reason to raise taxes. Revenues are more than sufficient to fund our shared priorities.
During the budget debate, I offered two amendments to help children.
Amendment 471 would have increased funding for special education by nearly $253 million and removed the 13.5 percent funded enrollment percent limit for special education excess cost funding. You can watch my floor speech here. Unfortunately, the amendment failed by a vote of 46-48.
Amendment 472 would provide grant funding of $5 million to school districts for transportation of students who are homeless or in foster care. You can watch my floor speech on this amendment here. This amendment passed unanimously.
Transportation and special education funding are part of basic education, which is the Legislature's paramount duty and should have been a top priority in the budget.
While there are good things in the budget proposal, overall, I am very concerned with the enormous increase in spending — going from a $44.4 billion budget in the current fiscal cycle to a $53 billion budget — a nearly $9 billion increase in two years — and then asking citizens struggling with their own budgets to dig deeper in their pockets to pay for this tremendous government growth when the state is already receiving record revenues. I believe we can do better, so that's why I voted no.
Support additional taxes? You can opt to pay more. . .
With a $3 billion surplus, I think we pay plenty of taxes to the state of Washington. However, some think they don't pay enough. As I sat in on budget hearings in the House Appropriations Committee, I heard many times from government agencies who think we should all pay more.
I have a solution. If you want to pay more to the state, there's a way to do it through the State Treasurer's Office. You can donate as much money as you want to the state of Washington. Go here and download this form. Make your check payable to the Washington State Treasurer.
Caldier bills moving through the Senate
I'm pleased to report four of my bills remain alive and are moving through the Senate. They include:
- House Bill 1016 – Sexual assault kit notice: Would require hospitals to notify a rape victim within two hours of their arrival that they don't have rape kits or a provider trained in sexual assault examinations on the premises. Passed the House unanimously. A public hearing was held Friday in the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee and the bill passed the committee yesterday (April 1).
- House Bill 1198 – Health provider misconduct notice: Would require a health provider who was sanctioned for sexual misconduct to notify patients of the sanction details. Passed the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on March 25. The bill is now in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
- House Bill 1934 – Pistol license/armed forces: Would establish a mail application process for members of the Armed Forces who are deployed out of state and wish to renew their concealed pistol licenses (CPL). This was brought to me by a constituent who is deployed to Virginia for military service. He was told he must fly back to Washington state to renew his CPL. For the sacrifices our men and women in the Armed Forces make every day, we should not require them to fly home to renew their licenses. A public hearing was held March 28 in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which passed the bill today.
- House Bill 1607 – Health marketplace notices: Would require written notice be given to the state attorney general at least 60 days before the effective date of a hospital or provider organization acquisition or merger. The measure passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee on March 28. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. (BACKGROUND ON HOUSE BILL 1607) – This bill originated after a local hospital acquired several medical clinics in Kitsap County. Their merger/acquisition created a monopoly in which patients could not get care with any other health care organization within Kitsap County that was not affiliated with this group. Once they eliminated competition, they jacked up rates and then bragged about it in internal emails. Read my press release. We contacted Attorney General Bob Ferguson who filed a federal lawsuit in 2017 against the three health care organizations, alleging the merger and affiliation agreements were unlawful and violated state and federal antitrust laws. A settlement was reported by the Kitsap Sun.
Caldier's 26th District town halls successful
Many thanks to all of you who attended my recent town hall meetings in Port Orchard, Vaughn and Gig Harbor. I appreciated all of your questions, ranging from the budget, transportation, Narrows Bridge tolls, to environmental issues. Views on many subjects came from both sides of the political spectrum, emphasizing to me the diverse population of the district.
For those of you who were unable to attend, I am still interested to hear your viewpoints on issues that are now before the Legislature. Feel free to call, write, or email my office. You're also welcome to make an appointment if you plan to come to Olympia. I always enjoy meeting with constituents.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!