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Today the Legislature began its second special session. We have yet to agree on the state operating and capital budgets, but this week we did approve the transportation budget (which is separate from the gas-tax package, and only spends already-existing taxes). I am hopeful that we can conclude our work within the next couple of weeks.
It is disappointing we haven't been able to finish our work on time. The main sticking point is that some members of the majority party in the House want new taxes and tax increases, even though revenues coming in to state government continue to rise. It is important to note that a majority of legislators in Olympia believe we can pass responsible budgets within existing revenues.
On May 18 a new state revenue forecast indicated that thanks to you, the taxpayers, we are now on track to have nearly $3.2 billion more in tax collections this budget cycle, an increase of over 9 percent. That, I believe, is certainly adequate to pay for all of our obligations, including increased K-12 education spending and programs for the most vulnerable. There is no need for new taxes.
Gov. Inslee has conceded that the amount of new taxes he proposed at the beginning of the year is not necessary. Many of my colleagues and I believe that, because of the recovering economy in the central Puget Sound region, we can work within the revenues we have now and shouldn't ask taxpayers for more when you're already giving so much. Many regions in Washington state are still suffering from the recession.
As the assistant ranking member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I am involved in capital budget negotiations. Our talks have been very productive, and I believe a bipartisan agreement is well within reach. The final budget will include significant funding for public school construction, maintenance and repair to reduce K-3 classroom sizes, and for increasing capacity for mental health care.
Now that we are finally putting the Great Recession behind us, it is time to create responsible, sustainable state budgets. We've had too many years of spending beyond our means. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to lay a more stable foundation for future generations.
Please don't hesitate to contact me with your comments, questions and ideas. As time allows during the special session, I am available to meet with you or your organization by appointment.
Thank you, and as always it is an honor to serve you.
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7884 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000