Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now half-way through the 60-day session. Unfortunately, we still have not seen a budget proposal from the majority to balance the $1.5 billion shortfall. Though many other policy issues are moving through the Legislature, some very controversial, my focus this session is responsibly balancing the budget and doing what we can to help incentivize job creation for the nearly 300,000 people out of work in our state.
I'm excited to join my fellow House Republicans to support a plan to Fund Education First. In conjunction with this proposal, my colleagues introduced an education-only budget last week. This is an innovative approach to ensuring children's education is truly treated as the paramount duty of the state. If this proposal passed, we would be the first state in the country to budget in this manner. Recently, the Washington Supreme Court reinforced the need to Fund Education First when it ruled we were not fully funding basic education and that the state must “amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the State's first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations.”
The education budget (House Bill 2770) proposed by House Republicans:
- fully funds levy equalization ($600 million);
- funds a full 180-day school year;
- maintains current funding for all-day kindergarten;
- funds education reforms and accountability; and
- budgets $580 million more in education funding than the governor's budget proposal.
In addition, this budget would not count on a one-time apportionment payment shift as the governor's budget does. I think a key component of this budget are the reforms and accountability measures built in. This includes:
- House Bill 1414 would allow school districts to waive certain unfunded mandates.
- House Bill 2427 would implement revised teacher/principal evaluation systems.
- House Bill 2165 would provide professional development for the new teacher/principal evaluation system.
- House Bill 2506 would provide flexibility and accountability for bilingual and learning assistance programs.
These reforms are important for taxpayers to have confidence that the Legislature is not “throwing money at the problem.” This ensures we use all taxpayer dollars to the greatest benefit of students. This was the first budget proposed in the Legislature, and I hope this will stimulate serious budget discussions so we can complete the session on time.
In my approach to the budget and finding savings, I have been working on several bills dealing with child welfare.
- House Bill 2289 would establish a family assessment response, as I have written you about in the past. This is a reasonable approach for families in crisis. It recognizes that there are many contributing factors to family conflicts, and that removing children from the home in mild situations is not always the best course of action. The bill would allow social workers to address issues and help foster the family before simply removing children from a home. Of course, this will not preclude any child from being protected from dangerous situations. It's simply a more measured approach to family conflicts, and though not the primary goal, could even save some money.
- House Bill 2263 would reinvest savings achieved from decreases in foster care caseloads and costs to a new Child and Family Reinvestment Account for improving the foster care system.
- House Bill 2264 would implement performance-based contracting in child welfare services at demonstration sites, with the goal of expanding it statewide in 2017. This would create more efficiencies in the system and promote accountability to taxpayers.
All of these bills are now in the House Ways and Means Committee.
My bill to allow corrections officers' uniforms be made by the private sector instead of the inmates was heard and unanimously approved the same day by the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee. You can read more about the hearing here. It then sailed through the General Government Appropriations Committee. It now waits to be scheduled for a vote by the entire House before it moves to the Senate.
Town hall meetings
I will be hosting in-person town hall meetings with my seatmate, Rep. Terry Nealey, next weekend. I hope you can join us for a discussion about agriculture, the budget, education and public safety.
Friday, Feb. 17
7 p.m. Columbia Basin College, Gjerdes Center – 2600 North 20th Avenue, Pasco
Saturday, Feb. 18
8 a.m. Coffee Roundtable at Country Cupboard – 330 East Main Street, Dayton
10 a.m. Walla Walla Community College Conference Center – 500 Tausick Way, Walla Walla
In conclusion, I hope you find these e-mail updates informative and will forward them on to family and friends so they can subscribe and stay up to date with what is happening in the Legislature as well.
It's an honor and privilege to serve you in Olympia.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000