Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's getting busier and busier as we enter the home stretch of the legislative session. Budgets are being proposed, major bills are being considered, and we're getting closer to more voting and more negotiations.
In this update I'll give you a brief overview of where things stand in the Legislature. Also, I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments. I am here to serve you!
Democratic budget proposal: $1.5 BILLION in tax increases
Last Friday the House Democrats unveiled their state operating budget proposal. Its main components are:
- $38.9 billion in spending — a $5.1 billion increase over the last budget
- $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes in this budget cycle
- By 2019, spending would increase by a total of $9.2 billion and taxes by an additional $2.4 billion
These spending and tax increases are unnecessarily large, not to mention unsustainable. The state is already poised to take in more than $3 billion in revenues this budget cycle. We should first try to make do with the money taxpayers are already providing.
The Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate will unveil its own budget proposal today. It is expected to not include tax increases. From there, the House and Senate will begin negotiations and hopefully come to an agreement by the time the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 26.
Local control of $40 million for schools on life support
Last year Washington state lost local control of nearly $40 million in federal education funds that help at-risk students. This year, unfortunately, it looks as though we will not regain control of the funds.
At issue is the federal No Child Left Behind act. The federal government will waive parts of the law for states, as long as the states agree to make data from student test scores a part of — but not the entire basis for — teacher and principal evaluations. Under pressure from the Washington Education Association, Washington has refused to comply and thus had its waiver revoked. Only one other state lost its waiver, but quickly took action to regain it.
As a result of the lost waiver, low-income and at-risk children across the state — including in the Tacoma School District — are losing out on programs designed to meet their particular needs. In the House Education Committee we heard testimony from Pierce County officials who strongly support getting the waiver back. It is a very sad and frustrating situation for the children, their parents and their teachers.
It looks as though the majority party in the House, due to pressure from the powerful teachers union, will not allow a vote on legislation to regain control of the $40 million. With my colleagues, however, I'll do what I can to try to resolve this issue before session ends.
That's all for now. Again, please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions, comments and concerns. Thanks, and have a great week.