Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I appreciate everyone who participated in the recent town hall meetings Rep. Walsh and I hosted in Pasco, Dayton, and Walla Walla. Your input and questions are helpful as we continue our work in Olympia. Thank you.
Today is the 47th day of the 2012 session and the end is quickly approaching. Many deadlines and cutoffs have passed and the process now moves quickly as the focus shifts to the budget.
SUPPLEMENTAL OPPERATING BUDGET PROPOSALS:
The House Republicans released a full supplemental operating budget last Friday, and House Democrats followed by releasing their budget Tuesday. Originally, we had anticipated a $1.5 billion shortfall; however that number has changed to $1.1 billion. The change is a result of fewer people using state services than expected along with a recent pick up in the revenue forecast.
The majority party's budget looks very different from ours. We feel it is imperative to fund these critical areas first: education, public safety, and protection of our most vulnerable. The House Republican budget funds these three core areas without a tax increase. You can quickly see the difference in our two budgets by looking at the graphs below. (For larger pictures please click on the graphs.)
The Democrat's proposed budget lacks the reforms necessary to address the long-term problems and create a sustainable budget. This is evident in the $405 million in delayed payment to schools and cuts to levy equalization. Funding education is the state's paramount duty and their budget is essentially floating a check until the next biennium by delaying payment in this one. The Republican budget does not kick the can down the road in education. Instead we:
- Fully fund 180 day school year (without $330 million apportionment delay)
- Maintain critical funding for levy-equalization for property poor districts
- Preserve current funding for all day kindergarten
- Includes important reforms and increased accountability while budgeting $376 million more towards education.
The Republican budget does not compromise the safety of citizens in order to balance the budget. Our budget dedicates $37 million more in public safety funding than the House Democrats' proposal. We include funding for new radios and safety initiatives for our prison staff as well as new funding for gang violence prevention.
I am also concerned with the cuts to our most vulnerable seen in the Democrat's budget. Their proposed budget slashes state funding for reimbursement rates to critical access hospitals (CAH) by more than $13 million. Since the Governor's budget was released, I have been determined to protect CAH funding. CAH provide an important safety and economic component to our rural communities.
The Democrat's proposed budget is likely to be voted on next week on the House Floor and move to the Senate shortly after that. Hopefully some of the Republican ideas will be accepted. However, I will not stop fighting for a sustainable budget that meets the priorities of government without raising taxes.
LEGISTLATIVE PHOTO JOURNAL
Thank you again for all of your support, questions, and concerns this session. I always welcome hearing from you regarding issues that affect you.