Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday the governor called the Legislature into a second special session. What was supposed to last 105 days is now in its 137th day. Since the first special session began, I have traveled from Spokane to Olympia on three separate occasions. While both the House and Senate have offered compromises for the 2013-15 budget, there is still no formal agreement. Why, is up for political debate.
The most recent House Democrat budget dropped their initial $1.3 billion tax increase proposals to $595 million. They say these tax increases will pay for education. The most recent Senate Coalition budget moved from a no-new-taxes approach to accepting $356 million in tax increases or changes. The Senate wants to fund education first, then use the tax increases for social programs. Both sides are willing to compromise, and I have the utmost hope they can come to an agreement before June 30, the end of our state's 2011-13 budget.
You may have heard rumors of a government shutdown. While the governor may be planning ahead if the Legislature does not pass a budget, a government shutdown does not have to happen if we stay focused on the budget. Unfortunately, there have been many distractions since January that created divisiveness and wasted time, including universal background checks on firearm sales, an abortion mandate, climate change legislation and much more.
The House also recently voted on a bill dealing with the estate tax, also known as the “death tax.” The legislation aims to make couples and individuals equally subject to the estate tax, approved by voters. However, it would also adopt this change retroactively, meaning families who are expecting a tax refund will no longer receive it because the state will keep that money. I don't think this is fair, so I voted no.
While the rhetoric goes back and forth, I want you to know where I stand. I believe we can pass a sustainable budget that prioritizes our constitutional obligation to education first, and also protects our fragile economy. The education of our children and protection of taxpayers do not have to be mutually exclusive. Our state is still expected to bring in $2 billion more in this upcoming budget without raising taxes – this can provide what is needed to increase education funding as required by the state Supreme Court, and population growth. Call me an eternal optimist, but Olympia is not Washington D.C. – we can and will find agreement on a responsible budget that is fair to Washington's children, families and hardworking individuals.
TV tax not on the table
Many of you have written to me about the proposed “TV tax,” or satellite tax. The House Democrats' latest budget proposal did include about $50 million with a satellite tax. However, when the budget and House Bill 1971 which was assumed to include the satellite tax passed the House, neither included the tax. So for now, it appears as if public pressure has again won the day and this will not be included. I would not and will not support this, as it unfairly targets people who may not have access to cable TV in more rural areas like Cheney.
I'll keep you updated as things move forward here in Olympia. Please feel free to contact my office – even when I have to travel to Olympia, my legislative assistant, Josh, will still be available to assist you in Spokane. Our contact information is below.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you.