An important debate over the future of K-12 education was held in the House on Wednesday, as the majority party brought their education funding plan (House Bill 1843) to the floor for a vote. For our part, we introduced seven amendments to the bill in an effort to improve it. One of these amendments would have required the majority party to detail how they were going to pay for their proposal, which has a price tag of more than $6 billion per budget cycle once fully implemented. In its current form, no funding mechanism is attached to the proposal, which means the public is being asked to support it without knowing how they would be affected financially.
Now that the majority party in each chamber has developed an education funding proposal, I am hopeful negotiations can be accelerated to craft a hybrid compromise. An ideal compromise will take the best from the plans proposed, as well as the extensive work done by the House Republican Caucus, to create the best possible long-term, sustainable solution for K-12 education funding. We recognize that continuing to rely on a system that perpetuates inequities based on a child's ZIP code is unconstitutional and unfair to them, their teachers, and the staff who support them. We must have a K-12 funding system in Washington state that is ample, equitable and accountable.
As we move forward negotiating a final comprehensive K-12 education funding solution this session, our vision must remain on doing what is right for all children in Washington state. I know every legislator in the House shares the same hopes for our children, and while there are different approaches on the table, I have confidence in our ability to find common ground and build the policy bridges necessary for a true, long-term solution.
I had an opportunity to speak on the final passage of the bill, which I encourage you to watch here.
An update on the Capital Budget Committee
While we have an operating budget that pays for the day-to-day operations of state government, and a transportation budget that pays for public transit and road maintenance, we also have a capital budget that pays for brick-and-mortar needs. The capital budget provides funds for the building of public schools, higher education facilities, state buildings, public lands, parks, and other assets. It's around a $4 billion budget every biennium, and we use a combination of debt (thankfully, we are bound by an 8.5 percent debt limit) and cash to fund projects.
A large component of the capital budget is the School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP), which helps local school districts provide school facilities, and provides funding assistance for new construction, modernization, and replacement of school instructional space. The budget for SCAP varies every biennium because much of the funding is provided by voter-approved school construction bonds, which the state then matches based on a per-district formula. During the 2015-17 biennium, the SCAP budget was $645.9 million. Due to the record number of school construction bonds passing in 2016 — $3.6 billion worth — the 2017-19 SCAP budget will be more than $1 billion.
Beyond SCAP, there are several important bills before us in committee. The challenge will be meeting our statutory obligations within the capital budget debt limit in a budget cycle with historic demand for K-12 construction throughout the state, as well as demand for funding other priorities, such as mental and behavior health, homelessness, higher education, toxic site cleanups, aging corrections facilities and forest health work in critical fire hazard areas.
We will do our very best to address our challenges before us in a responsible way, with my top priorities being K-12 school construction and mental and behavioral health.
Appearing on TVW's “The Impact”
Earlier this month, Rep. Jeff Morris and I had the opportunity to sit down with TVW's Mike McClanahan to discuss the work we're doing in the House Technology and Economic Development Committee. Rep. Morris serves as the chair of the committee, while I serve as the ranking member. We had a wide-ranging conversation, which I encourage you to watch here.
In my last email update, I talked about a bill I introduced this session that would regulate biometric privacy — something only two other states in the country have done. My bill would prohibit state agencies from obtaining a biometric identifier — retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, scan of the hand or face — without notice and consent. State agencies would also be prohibited from selling the identifier. The News Tribune's Melissa Santos recently interviewed me about the bill for an article she published yesterday about the important work we're doing in the Legislature to protect your biometric data. You can read her article here.
Sponsoring House page Malena Reyes
I recently had the opportunity to sponsor Stanwood High School student Malena Reyes as a page in the state House. Malena plays in the Stanwood High School band, and has a keen interest in marine biology and history. While serving as a House page, Malena attended page school every day, assisted legislators on the House floor, and fulfilled many other tasks critical to the efficient operation of the Legislature. Thank you, Malena, for your service!
I believe it's critical for our young people to get involved in their state government, and that's why the House Page Program is invaluable. If you know of any students who would be interested in becoming a page this session, please send me an email. To become a page, applicants must have a legislative sponsor, be between the ages of 14 and 16, and obtain written permission from their parents and school. Pages earn $35 per day while serving in the program. For more information, click here.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns. I always look forward to your feedback, as it helps me better serve you and bring your interests to the forefront.
It is an honor to serve you.