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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been a while since I have communicated with you via e-newsletter, so with only 12 days remaining of the scheduled 105-day session, I wanted to take a few moments to provide an update.
The biggest moving pieces of the session are the budget bills. House Democrats and Senate Republicans (Majority Coalition Caucus) have passed competing operating budget bills. The Democrat operating budget proposal would rely on $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes. However, the bill they wrote that contains those tax increases has not been moved out of the House Finance Committee. So essentially, their budget is built on revenue that does not yet exist.
The House has passed its capital construction budget and the 2015-17 transportation maintenance level operating budget and sent both to the Senate with my support.
Yesterday, House Democrats unveiled their proposed transportation revenue package that includes an 11.7 cent gas tax, similar to what the Senate sent earlier. The House package contains fewer transportation projects than the Senate, and would provide more funding for transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects. It's expected this measure will be voted out of the House Transportation Committee tonight.
As I have stated repeatedly in the past, I truly believe that substantial reforms within our transportation policy are necessary before we consider again reaching into taxpayers pockets to pay for new projects. That's why I introduced House Bill 1850 and House Bill 1851 regarding permit streamlining for maintenance projects and structurally deficient bridges. I have also partnered with Rep. Judy Clibborn to introduce House Bill 1695 regarding expanded use of recycled concrete and aggregate products on transportation projects. These bills along with others would expedite construction processes and save precious tax dollars as we move forward with transportation projects across the state.
With just less than two weeks remaining in the regular session, there is still a lot of work left to be done. Here in the House of Representatives, we will be working on getting bills out that are necessary to implement the 2015-17 budget and ensuring that the final spending plan is responsible, sustainable and properly reflects the priorities of the state. The last day of session will be April 26.
More details on these and other issues below.
I look forward to continuing my service at home and in our communities over the interim. Please contact me anytime you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding legislation or state government operations.
House approves $1 million for Everett Connector transit routes
I'm pleased to report that the House approved my amendment to the 2015-17 maintenance transportation budget that would provide $1 million for the Island Transit and Skagit Transit Everett Connector routes.
The Island County Everett Connector route, which operated between Camano Island and Everett, closed last summer because of funding difficulties. It's an important route for commuters, students and others who work in Everett. Both Island Transit and Skagit Transit would get a share of the money to reopen the Camano-Everett Connector and to continue operating the Mount Vernon to Everett Connector, which did not close.
The money is contingent upon fares being charged. Island Transit has not charged fares in the past. Many who used the Everett Connector from Camano Island told me they would gladly pay the fare to keep the route open. Island Transit's board is now considering fares.
Bill to provide higher education early course registration for military spouses heading to the governor
On April 9, my colleagues in the Senate voted unanimously to forward House Bill 1052 to the governor for his signature. He is scheduled to take action on the bill Friday. I prime-sponsored this bill at the request of a constituent to assist the spouses of our active duty military members in receiving priority registration at our state colleges and universities. To be eligible for priority registration, the spouse must be collecting their husband or wife's military education benefits. This is a great step forward to further support our military families. I am very proud to have sponsored this bill and see it sent to the governor.
A tale of two budgets
Below is a comparison of the House Democratic operating budget proposal and the Senate's. House Democrats want to raise taxes by more than $1.5 billion. That's on top of the additional $3 billion the state will be receiving in tax collections because of an improving economy. Two years ago, Democrats said taxes needed to be raised because our state was in bad times. Now we are in better times and they still want to raise taxes. So when is the time NOT to raise taxes? I say NOW!
- Listen to my interview on the House and Senate budget proposals on KSER with Ed Bremer.
- Watch my Legislative Update video as I talk about the House vs. Senate budgets.
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