Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we enter the final two weeks of the legislative session, our focus is on the supplemental budgets – operating, capital and transportation.
Both House Democrats and the Senate released their operating budget plans earlier this week. The differences between the House and Senate supplemental budgets are not as large as we have seen in previous years. There will be negotiations to work out differences, but there is nothing that should prevent us from adjourning the 60-day regular session on time. We can expect an increased investment in education, building on last year's significant boost in education funding. However, any significant increase in education spending for the McCleary Decision would likely take place when we write the next two-year budget in 2015.
One difference between the House and the Senate is the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which invests in degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The Senate plan increases funding to Opportunity Scholarships by $25 million.
Separate from the budget, the House Democrats put forward a $200 million tax increase in House Bill 2796, a separate piece of legislation they hope to tie to the budget if they can find enough support. I oppose this tax proposal and do not expect it to garner enough support to be part of a final budget.
The Senate supplemental operating budget, Senate Bill 6002, passed with a strong, bipartisan vote of 41-8. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the House Democrat proposal on Tuesday.
The House Transportation Committee voted on the supplemental transportation budget Friday morning. The full House will vote on the plan early next week. No additional gas tax revenue plans are moving forward this session. The supplemental transportation budget simply allows for continued maintenance and operation and completion of current projects, including several projects in the South Puget Sound area. I also have concerns about additional funding for cost overruns on the Highway 520 bridge in King County. The 520 bridge demonstrates as well as anything the need for a package of efficiencies and reforms within our transportation system. Transportation reforms remain a top priority for me in the Legislature.
House Bill 2224, the House supplemental capital budget proposal, is scheduled to be voted on by the full House on Monday. Two 25th District projects in the budget proposal include:
- $400,000 for the Meeker Creek restoration project in Puyallup. This restoration project would improve water quality and salmon habitat in Meeker Creek and in turn help to reduce flooding on Clark's Creek. Citizen leaders are working to restore the entire Puyallup River Watershed so that future generations can continue to enjoy our beautiful local waterways. The Meeker Creek restoration is a critical part of this work.
- $1 million for Brookville Gardens Community Park improvements in Fife. Brookville Gardens is situated between a residential and industrial area in the quickly-growing community of Fife. I am a strong believer in local parks, and I am glad that Fife came to the Legislature to request this funding. This funding would enable improved landscaping for recreational opportunities and local cultural events for decades to come.
Legislators will be finalizing the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals as we work toward adjournment on March 13. I also have legislation still moving through the Senate that I hope to get signed into law.
Finally, I have a telephone town hall scheduled for March 18. I will be sending out the details on the event in the next couple weeks. I look forward to hearing your questions and concerns and providing you a 2014 legislative session wrap-up.
468 John L.O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7968 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000