Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Although it took 172 days and three special sessions, I'm happy to report the Legislature has adopted a strong, bipartisan 2017-19 operating budget. The $43.7 billion spending plan makes historic investments and reforms in K-12 education. $7.3 billion will be invested into public schools over the next four years, which means for the first time since the early 1980s, more than 50 percent of the operating budget will be dedicated to K-12 education.
The budget also includes a number of tax preferences that will help keep our economy growing, including the extension of a preferential B&O tax rate for all manufacturing companies. This will not only help spur development and job creation for businesses already located in Washington state, but it will also serve to recruit businesses from other states looking for a more business-friendly environment to operate in.
Other highlights of the budget include:
- No capital gains income tax, carbon tax, or business and occupation tax increase on service businesses;
- Makes critical investments in our mental health system, increasing access to crisis walk-in centers and building on our efforts over the past several years;
- Makes a number of improvements to our state's foster care system in an effort to bring an end to our ongoing foster parent shortage;
- Invests in homelessness relief, assisting individuals with a history of mental illness and providing housing opportunities for homeless youth;
- Increases funding for the State Need Grant program, which assists the state's lowest-income undergraduate students; and
- Provides a significant rate increase to child care providers, many of which are struggling.
Members of both parties in each chamber spent hundreds of hours negotiating to produce an operating budget that will serve students, teachers, families and our communities well. It's a good compromise budget for Washington state, and especially for our district.
K-12 education fully funded through House Bill 2242
Along with the 2017-19 operating budget, the Legislature also adopted House Bill 2242, an education funding solution that provides ample basic education funding while providing equity for students and teachers across the state. The plan adequately addresses the McCleary decision and fully funds the state's program of basic education, increasing state salary allocations by nearly $5.3 billion per biennium to equip all school districts with sufficient resources to recruit and retain high-quality staff. Starting teacher pay will be set at a minimum of $40,000 per year, a significant increase from current levels. Additionally, the current health benefit system, which unfairly punishes working families, will be replaced with a modern system modeled after the state employee health benefit system. Finally, the plan remedies our current regressive local levy system by capping local levy rates to provide tax relief to those in school districts where property valuations are on the lower end of the scale. This will preserve local control by continuing to allow districts to fund local enhancements to meet the diverse needs of school districts across our state.
Due to this education funding solution, the 25th District will see significant increases in funding for our local schools. Our district is a “net-winner,” meaning taxpayers will see a net reduction in their property taxes while our local schools will experience an increase in funding. By the end of the 2020-21 school year, the Puyallup School District is expected to see a $34 million increase in education funding, while the Franklin Pierce School District will see a $14 million increase and the Fife School District will see an $8.5 million increase.
In addition to these investments, HB 2242 includes critical reforms to our education system. Over the past few years, I have talked with educators, administrators, students and parents about what the greatest needs are in the classroom. From these discussions, I have learned education dollars are often not making it to the classroom, and are instead being used for other purposes at the local level. In HB 2242 is a new, rigorous accountability system to ensure state dollars are being used for their intended purpose in local school districts. This is important to ensure an equitable education system for all students in Washington state.
Third special session continues
The Legislature remains in its third 30-day special session as negotiators work to complete the 2017-19 capital budget, the final piece of the session puzzle. The House passed a robust two-year capital budget early Saturday morning, and it's now up to the Senate to take action on it. The roughly $4 billion capital budget is the smallest of the state's three budgets, but is incredibly important to our communities as it funds the building, maintenance and/or renovation of public schools, higher education facilities, state buildings, public lands, parks, and other assets.
Please don't hesitate to contact my office with any questions, concerns, or ideas you have as we continue working to solve a variety of challenges. My staff and I are here to serve you year-round. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (360) 786-7948.
It is an honor to represent the 25th District in the state House of Representatives. Have a safe and happy Independence Day!