We are down to the final days of our regular legislative session, which ends March 8th, “Sine Die.” I am cautiously optimistic that we will finish on time and thus not have to go into a special session which the governor would call for up to 30 days.
The big news items of the week include is that the Senate budget proposal makes no cuts to K-12 and higher ed and that Washington adds more jobs and unemployment rate is lowered as our economic recovery continues.
This e-newsletter also will provide an update of my bills passed by the Legislature and recent media coverage of my legislation.
In addition, I’ve provided information on how to follow the Senate Democratic Caucus on Twitter and invite you to listen to a weekly podcast.
Please read below for more information.
Senate budget makes no cuts to K-12 and higher ed
The Senate budget proposal released Tuesday fully protects education, preserves critical safety net programs, does not rely on new taxes and improves the long-term stability of our state’s finances.
Critically, the proposed budget also honors the highest priority of the families and communities of Washington: education. Our budget makes no cuts to current K-12 and higher education funding.
The Senate budget would balance the budget through three major steps:
- First, it would protect education by reinvesting the more than $340 million in savings from the recently improved caseload forecast – savings driven in part by our previous reforms. In stating this, I fully understand that too many of our vulnerable citizens still have needs that are not being addressed.
- Second, it would make approximately $300 million in difficult cuts to non-education state services. To be clear – in order to preserve services that help large numbers of people, such as the Basic Health Plan, we had to make sacrifices elsewhere. We scoured this budget for the most reasonable cuts we could find, and made them.
- Third, as was done in a bipartisan fashion last year, and as the governor proposed in November, the proposal delays a payment to schools by one day to move savings into this budget. We also make the change in timing permanent to avoid a continuing burden on future budgets.
These steps would help us balance revenue and expenditures for the first time in five years.
To better fund class size reduction in the future, we will introduce bills to end the tax exemption on interest on mortgages for national banks, and end an exemption on sales tax on wind power generation equipment ahead of schedule. It won’t be easy as we will need the support of two-thirds of the Senate to close these loopholes and secure funding for our children. While I would prefer a larger amount of new revenue, even if it means going to the ballot for voter approval, it is unclear at this point whether that will happen.
In addition to protecting K-12 education, our proposal would add revenue, $32 million this year, to funding class size reductions in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent McCleary decision.
And we would leave $370 million in our reserve fund – in financial terms, it’s a healthy “rainy day” account.
Budgets are not just numbers; they are markers in people’s lives. And while this budget proposal is not perfect, I believe it reflects values we hold dear as well as is reasonable given our tremendous budget constraints and continued sputtering of our economy. It basically sustains without doing further damage to education and essential services. There are encouraging signs for gradual economic recovery. I look forward to working with my colleagues and passing a final, balanced budget in the remaining days of session. I also believe it is imperative we reform our regressive tax structure and other structural deficiencies over the next couple of years.
Although our budget has not yet passed the Senate, it is still in play. The House budget passed the House Wednesday.
My bills passed by the Legislature, now onto the governor
Today, March 2nd, is the last day to consider policy bills that were sent from the opposite house. My bills that have passed the Legislature and now await a final signature from the governor include:
- Senate Bill (SB) 6251 - Combats human trafficking, focusing on online child escort ads, such as backpage.com. Creates a new offense of advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
- SB 5991 - Expands mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect in our colleges and universities in response to Penn State sexual abuse scandal.
- SB 6095 - Changes gender-specific terms and references in our state laws to be gender-neutral.
- SB 6486 - Authorizes collective bargaining for postdoctoral and clinical research employees at UW and WSU.
- SB 6167 - Washington State Patrol is authorized to provide background checks of prospective clients or residents at no cost to homeless shelters and transitional facilities.
- SB 6574 - Authorizes City of Seattle to collect admissions taxes at Huskies football games played at Century Link Field in the fall of 2012 while Husky Stadium is being renovated.
- SB 5715 - Adopts core competencies for early care and education professionals.
- Not yet passes, but still in play is SB 5539, extending the motion picture competitiveness fund in order to promote film and television productions being made in Washington.
Recent media coverage of my legislation
- The Stranger - Totally Dead: A Bill to Protect Pot Patients
- The Stranger - Some Tax Loopholes Have It Harder Than Others
- Seattle Times - Lawmakers should keep the pressure on sex-trafficking ads
- Seattle Times - State House Oks bill targeting sex ads with minors
- The Olympian - Washington senate advances reporting plan spurred by Penn State scandal
- KUOW radio - Washington Measure Aims To Curb Sex Trafficking, Targets Online Ads
- Publicola - Monday Jolt: Basketball and Prostitution
- The Olympian - WA Legislature approves child abuse reporting bill
Washington adds more jobs as recovery continues
The state gained an estimated 13,200 jobs in January, driving the unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent from 8.6 percent the month before.
According to the state Employment Security Department, most sectors were growing by thousands of jobs last month, including professional and business services, retail trade, and education and health services. Only government employment showed a marked decline with a loss of 1,100 jobs.
Overall, Washington gained about 53,500 jobs in 2011.
Still, an 8.3 percent unemployment rate is too high. Senate Democrats have consistently worked to build a long-term economic development strategy that not only jump-starts jobs today but builds growth over the long haul.
Follow the SDC on Twitter and listen to a weekly podcast
Remember to check out the Senate Democrats’ podcast “In the Loop” for a summary of the week’s events or visit us on twitter @WASenDemocrats. A tip for twitter users: follow #waleg to see what other people are saying about the Washington State Legislature.
And that's it for this e-news update. Thanks for staying engaged in our government and the political process. I'm in Olympia full-time and available to meet with individual constituents, students and community organizations to discuss important issues to our community and state. Please give me a call or send an email to set up a time.
With warm regards,
Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles
Chair - Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee
36th Legislative District
Washington State Senate
(360) 786-7670 (206) 281-6854
E-Newsletter subscription: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/subscriptions/member.aspx?member=kohl-wellesj