Dear Friends and Neighbors,
During this special time of year I am, as I'm sure you are, cherishing my family and friends and reflecting on what's truly important. I’d like to let you know I am very thankful and feel privileged that I represent you in the state Senate!
However, as I write this, our challenges are the greatest they have been in balancing our state budget and recovering from the Great Recession.
In this e-newsletter, I am providing you with a quick update on several timely issues:
- The special legislative session begins today
- Proposal funds STEM degrees, fills local jobs
- The governor’s budget and revenue proposal
- Revenue forecast glum but not significantly worse
- Rep. Frockt named to fill open Senate seat
Please read below for more information.
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
The special legislative session begins today
Today marks the start of the special legislation session called by Gov. Chris Gregoire to address the state’s $1.4 billion budget shortfall due to lagging revenues as a result of the Great Recession.
By law, the special session can run no longer than 30 days, which means it must end on or before Dec. 27. The 2012 regular legislative session will begin not long after that, on Jan. 9.
Proposal funds STEM degrees, fills local jobs
Gov. Gregoire announced a proposal to ensure Washington remains competitive in the aerospace industry. This includes supporting local students to fill these in-demand jobs.
The proposal would provide $9.8 million in funding for aerospace education by increasing engineering degrees at the University of Washington and Washington State University:
- $7.6 million to the UW and WSU to enroll 775 more engineering students; and
- $1.5 million with additional support from companies, foundation, and donors to create a Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation at UW and WSU to support university research that will grow the aerospace sector and lead to new jobs in Washington.
- I will propose middle schools be included.
Funding also supports science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) efforts in high schools:
- $450,000 to expand the Launch Year program and provide 12 high schools with aerospace curriculum support to prepare high school students to enter the workforce. The investment would also provide two Skills Centers with aerospace manufacturing support to help train additional high school students; and
- $250,000 to add “Project Lead the Way” courses at 10 high schools which focus on problem-solving using STEM fields and skills.
In addition the proposal includes the creation of a Governor’s Aerospace Office to provide focus, direction, oversight, and coordination to grow Washington’s aerospace industry.
The funds would come from a variety of sources including partnerships with businesses, reserves and state dollars. You can find details of the governor’s proposal here, and a recent study on Washington’s competitiveness in the aerospace industry here. We expect to see governor-request legislation over the next few weeks.
The governor’s budget and revenue proposal
This week Gov. Gregoire released her operating budget proposal to solve the state’s revenue shortfall, consisting of two components. The first is a budget that makes up the shortfall by cutting a wide range of public services. The second is a revenue proposal that would let the public vote to “buy back” a portion of the cuts through a small tax increase.
The all-cuts budget slashes $1.7 billion in public services for the balance of the biennium, leaving a reserve of $601 million.
Among other things, the proposal transfers more fund balances to the general fund and reduces distributions to local governments, while also shifting a $340 million school apportionment payment into the next budget. The budget would eliminate most of the Disability Lifeline program and the Basic Health Plan.
The proposal reduces the days K-12 students spend in the classroom by four days, saving $99 million, and reduces levy equalization (homeowner property tax relief for poor school districts) by 50 percent. At the higher ed level, institutions would be cut by 15 percent overall. All of the education cuts, however, could be bought back via Gov. Gregoire’s revenue proposal.
The revenue proposal, meanwhile, has three parts: a ballot referendum for a temporary, half-cent sales tax increase for three years; a package of fees and other revenue sources requiring a simple majority vote of the Legislature; and a package of tax changes requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
The sales tax increase is projected to generate $494 million and buy back the governor’s proposed reductions mostly in K-12 and higher education. The majority vote package would generate $59 million. The two-thirds vote package would generate $282 million and would be used mostly to buy back cuts in human services and health care.
What is your opinion of the Governor’s proposal? I need to hear your thoughts so I can represent you in Olympia. Please send an email to email@example.com and let me know what you think of the proposed cuts and tax increase.
Revenue forecast glum but not significantly worse
This month’s revenue forecast from state economist Arun Raha projected a budget shortfall of $1.38 billion, or $122 million lower than predicted in recent weeks.
The forecast was boosted somewhat by a slight increase in revenues over the 2009-2011 biennium and a projected revenue increase as a result of Initiative 1183.
Raha said the revenue collected per state income is on a consistent downward trend and that real per capita general fund revenue is projected below the level of 1995. He said the state gained only 500 jobs over the past two months and that cutbacks in public sector jobs continue to hold back the employment recovery.
You can read the full forecast here.
Rep. Frockt named to fill open Senate seat
The 46 Legislative District Senate seat held by the late Sen. Scott White, who died tragically of an undiagnosed heart problem last month, has been filled by David Frockt, previously a freshman in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Frockt was appointed unanimously last week by the Metropolitan King County Council, which followed the recommendations of the 46th District Democratic officers and the King County Democratic Central Committee.
The appointment of Sen. Frockt, 42, comes just in time for the special legislative session that begins Monday.
You can read more about the appointment here.