Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Saturday the House passed the Democrats' operating budget proposal, which I opposed. As I wrote in last week's letter, the House budget continues our state's long pattern of unsustainable budgeting; it relies on creative accounting and cuts too deeply into education while avoiding serious reforms to social programs.
The Senate has also released its budget proposal, and a vote is expected soon. Budget negotiators have begun to work out the differences between the two proposals, and the differences are major. The Senate budget cuts education even more deeply than the House. In some other respects, it is more fiscally responsible than the House version. The session is set to conclude on April 24, so the clock is ticking for the House and Senate to work out a compromise budget.
Unfortunately, some leaders — especially in the Senate — have been talking as though a special session is inevitable. Moreover, legislators have been introducing major bills at the last minute, including proposals for massive fee increases like HB 2053 and bills to repeal tax exemptions.
I remain hopeful that budget negotiators can work quickly to negotiate a final budget so that we can get out on time without having to go into special session. The Legislature has had 105 days to complete its work. And with the state facing tremendous budget challenges, taxpayers should not be burdened with the extra $20,000-per-day cost for a special session.
One other thing worth noting is the Capital Budget. Last week, the House Capital Budget committee passed our $3.1 billion 2011-2013 budget proposal. It was a bipartisan effort that I was able to follow closely as the assistant ranking member of the committee. I am pleased to report that our budget includes $7.1 million for the next phase of construction of the Pierce County Skills Center. The Skills Center, located in Fredrickson, is a remarkable collaboration of local school districts to train future workers in various high-skilled professions. Our budget, along with the Senate proposal, also contains funding for toxics cleanup on the Port of Tacoma. The Senate version includes additional funds for economic development in downtown Puyallup. The next step for the Capital Budget is consideration on the House floor, but full-funding depends on the 60 percent passage of a $1.4 billion bond authorization bill.
Please continue to contact me if you have input on the budget.
468 John L.O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7968 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000