Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After the longest legislative session in state history, 193-days, the Legislature successfully approved the state's operating and transportation budgets. The two-year, $43.7 billion state operating budget makes a number of critical investments, including funding reforms for K-12 education. For the first time since the 1980s, K-12 education will make up more than 50 percent of the operating budget.
In addition to the increases in education funding, the operating budget makes crucial investments in mental health that will help transition less-acute individuals out of state hospitals, helping to increase the availability of services for critical patients.
We were also able to prevent the large tax increases being sought by the governor and House Democrats. This means no capital gains income tax, no carbon tax and no increases for service-related business and occupation (B&O) taxes.
Amply funding education
With the passage of House Bill 2242, the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision mandating education funding reform was fully answered by the Legislature. A major component of that decision was ending the state's overreliance on local levies for basic education. This plan fully funds the state's program of basic education, including the salaries for K-12 teachers and staff.
In total, the Legislature added $7.3 billion in education funding over the next four years. Going forward, school districts will see a big increase in funding.
Good news for many 28th District property-owners
Overall, the impact of the changes related to state and local enrichment property taxes means a decrease in the property-tax bills for many property owners in the 28th District. Because the local levy cap does not begin until 2018, you may see a small bump in your tax bill next year. However starting in 2019, many property owners will begin to see a decrease in their property tax bill.
Starting in 2018, the statewide property tax will be increased by $0.80 for a total flat rate of $2.70 per $1,000 assessed value for all Washingtonians. This money will be ear-marked for school districts, ending the overreliance on local levies for teacher and staff compensation. Local levies will be kept in place, but capped at a lower level. The money derived from local levies will still be used for enrichment activities. However, the cap is set at $1.50 per $1,000 per assessed property valuation, or $2,500 per student, whichever is lower.
Stay tuned. I'll be sending more detailed information on local levies and the statewide property tax for our district in future updates.
Sound Transit reform and ST3 car-tab tax relief
Republicans offered several solutions throughout the 2017 legislative session to provide relief to tax-payers in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties for the new fees being charged by Sound Transit. Folks are outraged and need relief.
I'm extremely disappointed no meaningful remedies were approved. However, there are already plans being put together to continue this fight in 2018. Residents in the ST3 tax authority area deserve real help with these high fees.
More unfinished business
During the waning hours of the final day of the session, House Democrats refused to vote on a measure that would provide a solution for one of the most critical property rights issues to face Washingtonians in decades, the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision.
The Hirst ruling makes it difficult, if not impossible, for home-builders, bankers and realtors to make investments in rural parts of our state that rely on exempt-wells for their water supply. This has far-reaching implications for all Washingtonians. As property values decline in rural areas, urban residents will be forced to cover the loss in tax revenue.
The argument over Hirst comes down to one question. Should rural property owners be allowed to use water available on their own land? Urban centers, like Seattle and Bellevue, draw their water from underground aquifers in rural parts of the state. Water transported to these cities allow residents and business developers the freedom to build homes, apartment buildings and commercial centers. The Hirst decision means rural residents may be denied access to the same water being delivered to city residents. This is fundamentally unjust.
During the regular legislative session, the Senate approved a measure four times that would have provided a solution to Hirst. Senate Bill 5239 would allow cities and counties to rely on the Department of Ecology's guidelines for watershed levels, the same method in place before the court's ruling. However, the House failed to bring it to the floor for a vote.
The state's capital budget approval delayed
Many lawmakers believe not voting on the state's capital budget was the only way Hirst would be taken seriously. In the final few hours of the third special session, the capital budget was ready for approval by both chambers. However once again, House Democrats refused to move forward with a vote on the Hirst solution causing lawmakers to delay the approval on the capital budget.
Lawmakers are continuing discussions in an attempt to reach an agreement on a fix for Hirst. I remain hopeful the negotiations prove successful, and we will be called back to Olympia for a one-day special session to approve both the capital budget and a fix for Hirst.
Although the Legislature has officially adjourned, I work for you all year. Please feel free to contact my office if you have questions, ideas, or comments about state government. My contact information is listed on this update.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.