Legislative Action Report — April 17, 2015

Reminder: the LAC meets this Sunday, April 19, 2 to 4 p.m. at the Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW. We are looking forward to hearing from Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th), especially about the compromise marijuana bill that passed, and from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (34th), Chair of House Environment and on the House Transportation Committee.

We’ll have a Bill Tracker update next week, reflecting cutoff for floor action for the two houses. What remains, of course, is agreement between the House and the Senate on the three budgets: the General Fund, the Capital (construction) Budget, and the transportation package. There is a good amount of agreement on the Capital Budget, with the Senate funding the Housing Trust Fund at $65 million and the House at $80 million. Please ask your legislators to go for $80 million for the Housing Trust Fund, to make up for $0 last year and only one earmarked project to King County the year before.

I’ve drawn on some of our wisest analysts to give you an overview of what’s going on behind closed doors in Olympia. Read on.

With disagreement in the transportation package over the amount of maintenance funding, the percentage of transit funding (a tiny 3% in the Senate) and crucially, the amount of borrowing authority to fund Sound Transit 3 over the next 17 years, no one thinks they will make their session deadline of April 26th. See details below. Both parties have agreed to raise the gas tax by 11.7 cents per gallon on top of the current 37.5 cents and the federal 18.4 cents per gallon.

Surprising no one, the greatest disagreement is over the revenue side of the General Fund budget. Democrats are insisting on more revenue to pay for both K-12 education and the human services safety net, including court-ordered increases in mental health treatment which the Senate budget cuts.

Democrats are fighting for a capital gains excise tax on just 32,000 individuals. Republicans are claiming it is an income tax and spreading fear, misunderstanding and distrust. In response, one bill would submit the $250,000 per person capital gains exemption to a constitutional amendment. In answer to the objection that it’s too variable, Democrats create a rainy-day stabilization fund. Please lobby your Senators to support the capital gains tax as part of needed revenue.

I’m off to Pasco for the State Democratic Central Committee meeting, back Sunday for our KCD Legislative Action Committee meeting. Here’s what my sources are saying:

–Sarajane Siegfriedt, LAC Co-Chair

“Andy Hill, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and write a budget that’s actually legal,” said Jaxon Ravens, Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party. “The Senate budget hides cuts to programs working families depend on with massive gimmicks and funds transfers that are just not sustainable. And Andy Hill claimed there was a pay raise for state workers in his budget that just did not exist. It’s time to cut the hocus pocus and get down to the real work of passing a sustainable budget that puts the middle class first, like one the House passed last week.”

Earlier this month, The Olympian, in an editorial, said Andy Hill and the Senate Republican’s budget, by breaking negotiated contracts with state workers, is “illegal” and the “wrong solution” for Washington.

Last week, House Democrats passed a sustainable budget that puts the middle class first. It fully funds education, invests in programs that benefit working-class families, and in a state that has one of the most unfair tax systems in the nation, finally makes the wealthy and well-connected pay their fair share.

By James Casey
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — The Legislature is courting sanctions from the state Supreme Court for failure to fund basic education, said the senator representing the North Olympic Peninsula.

Neither the state Senate nor the House budget eliminates the need for local levies to support schools, which the court insists is the state’s responsibility.

The court, which found the state Legislature in contempt in September, gave it until at least the end of this session — scheduled to end April 26 — to show progress toward that goal before it implemented sanctions.

And while the legislators have added all-day kindergarten to the state curriculum and made an attempt to curtail class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, they haven’t met the court’s demand for a permanent revenue stream that doesn’t depend on local property tax initiatives.

“That is an 80 to 89 percent possibility,” state Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam said Friday about contempt sanctions.

From our friends at Futurewise on the House Transportation budget passed Tuesday:

We need to advocate for a responsible proposal that gives transportation choices to all of Washington. The House gives us this opportunity. Click here to tell your legislators to support the House transportation proposal. This is how the two chambers differ:

  1. Sound Transit gets the full requested local authority amount to ask voters to support a 3rd phase of light rail expansion from Tacoma to Everett. Expansion that will help the Puget Sound region expand high capacity transit and relieve congestion.
  2. The House increased direct state funding in transportation choices from 3.5% to 7.6% of the total budget. We believe Washington deserves a balanced transportation system that moves us forward.
  3. The House also removed the poison pill provision that forced a choice between increased transit funding and requiring cleaner fuels.

Helpful graphic from Publicola’s Josh Feit:

The House [transportation] proposal is far from perfect — it lacks investments for reducing stormwater pollution from roads and does not significantly increase maintenance of existing roadways from the Senate passed version. But unlike their colleagues in the Senate, the House chose not to play political games with our state’s transportation budget.

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