Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With a little over three weeks left in our regular legislative session, I'm happy to give another update from the halls of Olympia.
Telephone Town Hall
You may have received a call from me a few weeks ago when Rep. Terry Nealey and I held our first telephone town hall meeting. I'm happy to report it was a tremendous success. At the peak of the call, there were more than 300 people on the telephone line listening and asking questions.
Telephone town hall meetings are especially useful as they offer the same engaging conversation and participation of a conventional town hall meeting without the difficulty of traveling long distances to attend.
We were able to discuss the most important issues facing our state, including the process involved in developing a balanced budget, proposals to fully fund education and the regulatory climate on businesses.
We also held two live polls during the call and they gave us good insight into the issues folks care about most.
After the regular legislative session ends on April 23, I'll look forward to returning to my home in Prosser. I'm in the final stages of securing a district office in Pasco and I'll potentially organize a few traditional town hall meetings around the district later this year.
The revenue forecast and operating budget
Two weeks ago, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its quarterly review of Washington state's projected revenue. The numbers look good. They indicate that Washington state can expect to receive revenue increases of about $1.1 billion in the 2015-17 budget cycle and $700 million for the 2017-2019 budget cycle.
These increases are a result of increased sales, property development and economic activity. While these benefits haven't reached all corners of our state yet, this forecast is a good indication we're moving in the right direction.
This $1.8 billion increase in revenue is another reason why we should not have to raise or implement new taxes in Washington state to balance our budget or fully fund education.
Unfortunately, the House Democrats had a different idea.
The budget they proposed last week called for $8 billion in new taxes over the next four years. The House Democrat proposal included carbon taxes, increased property taxes, a 20 percent B&O tax increase, and the implementation of a capital gains income tax.
I believe this is a slippery slope that could lead to a state income tax — something the voters of Washington have made extremely clear, many times, that they don't want.
During the debate on the bill, I was happy to support an amendment which would have re-allocated some existing funds to county fairs. In our region, we have three county fairs — substantially more than most other areas of Washington. These programs are not only important economic drivers, but they provide fantastic opportunities for kids in our area with groups like the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H.
Unfortunately, Republicans were outnumbered by House Democrats and the amendment was not adopted. But you can watch my remarks on the House floor below.
Ultimately, I voted no on this Democrat budget. But the Democrat majority in the House had enough votes for it to pass. Now, we'll begin negotiations with the Senate to find compromise and produce a finalized version.
As we move forward in the process, my priorities will remain the same as they have always been.
I will continue to advocate for fixing our broken and regressive education funding system, helping working families and small business owners, improving our roads, supporting public safety, and creating an economy where jobs can flourish.
Contact me and schedule a meeting
As we near the end of the regular legislative session, it's more important than ever that I hear from you about the priorities that matter most to you. I travel home to Prosser nearly every weekend and I would greatly enjoy scheduling an in-person meeting. Please call me at (360)786-7836 or email me at email@example.com to schedule a meeting. I look forward to hearing from you.