Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Finally. The legislative session is over. And we've got several big wins for taxpayers to celebrate. The final operating budget, which put us into three special sessions, does not include any capital gains income taxes, bottled water taxes, B&O tax increases or the governor's carbon tax. To be honest, I'm surprised. From the beginning, the governor and Democrats said we couldn't fund our priorities and obligations without a sparkly new tax increase. But we did. The people really won.
The final operating budget passed the House 90-8, the largest margin in 26 years. I voted “yes” on the budget, and here's why:
- It lives within our means, spending $38.1 billion out of $38.4 billion in current revenues.
- It meets our constitutional obligation to make education the paramount duty of the state, by providing 48 percent of the budget for K-12 education. I look forward to a discussion next year about levy reform that moves more of the burden off locals and especially our rural school districts.
- It cuts tuition for thousands of college students and families across our state – the first time in Washington state history. This Republican proposal will make a dramatic difference for lower- and middle-class families to afford a higher education.
- It provides important investments for mental health funding. It's not only important to help the most vulnerable, this is a public safety issue, too.
- It provides drought preparedness and wildfire suppression funding.
Unfortunately, a transportation gas tax package also passed the Legislature. I voted “no.” The amount the people in our district will pay in gas taxes is disproportionate to the rest of the state, as we have commuters and people whose jobs rely on vehicles powered by gas. In addition, this is the largest gas tax increase in our state's history at nearly 12 cents a gallon. You'll see the first hit at the pump in August this year of 7 cents, and another 4.9 cents next summer. Needless to say, I'm disappointed this passed.
In other news, I'm pleased my wildfire suppression reform bill will become law this month, in time for the wildfire season already raging. But beyond the law, I am hopeful we will see a cultural shift in how we respond to fires, communicate, and how much local resources are used. Please contact me with what you see this summer so we can continue to improve the response to fires.
I look forward to coming home and seeing all of you in the community. My legislative office in Omak is staffed by my legislative assistant, Jessica. You can reach her at (509) 826-7203 or you can email me at email@example.com. It's an honor to serve you.