We’ve made it to Week 14 and there are just two weeks left in the 2015 session. I am really looking forward to getting home soon but we still have a lot of work to do before heading back.
The House has passed all three of its proposed budgets: Operating, Transportation, and Capital; and budget negotiations with the Senate are underway. In the meantime, we’ve been working to pass policy bills that came to us from the Senate in time for the April 15 Opposite House Cut-off Deadline. Once this deadline hits, the only bills we will be allowed to vote on are those that are considered necessary to implement the budget, or “NTIB”. You can follow the action on TVW and find a list of bills up for consideration in the Floor Activity Report.
The Senate’s Budget
Last week, the Senate passed its proposed Operating Budget that invests $1 billion less than the House’s proposal. The Senate’s version leaves critical projects unfunded and shortchanges our state’s children, workers, and families. In order to fund the bare minimum, the Senate relies heavily on reductions and transferring hundreds of millions of dollars from other accounts, and further depletes state resources by handing out $114 million in wasteful tax breaks. This is not a sustainable solution and it fails to address one of the most pressing issues – that we are failing to raise enough resources over time to keep up with the state’s growing needs.
Of the many accounts raided, the one most directly impacted by the Senate budget is the Public Works Trust Account, which pays for local infrastructure projects like water and sewer improvements. Money that would create jobs and fund projects that support clean drinking water, protect our environment, and preserve our public health and safety is abandoned in the Senate’s proposal. Among other things, it also does not provide sufficient funding to maintain our parks, cuts $20 million from environmental protection efforts, and reduces financial aid to low-income students.
The Senate plans to fund education by depending on marijuana revenues. Initiative 502 currently dedicates revenue generated by recreational marijuana sales to a variety of health, treatment, and prevention programs. To bypass this, the Senate wants to rewrite the initiative to dedicate the majority of revenue to public schools. Not only does this undermine the initiative process, but it also hinges school funding on $300 million in revenue from the marijuana market, which is still in its infancy and highly unpredictable.
We cannot continue to cut funding from our already exhausted programs and safety nets. I am committed to working towards a budget that benefits all Washingtonians and accurately reflects our needs. We need to create a Washington that works for everyone, not just a select few. I encourage you to check out the Washington Budget and Policy Center’s comparison of the House’s and Senate’s operating budgets to gain a further understanding of what each proposes.
House Capital and Transportation Budgets
In addition to the operating budget proposal, the House also passed its proposed transportation and capital budgets.
The capital and transportation budgets make significant investments in community projects to maintain and expand our infrastructure and create jobs. You can find additional information on these budgets here, with specific focus on the projects in the 40th District for the capital budget here and the transportation budget here.
As with the operating budget, budget negotiators in the House and Senate will work on final versions of the capital and transportation budgets that both chambers can agree on.
All the best, Kristine