Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I'm back in Olympia for a scheduled 60-day legislative session that began Monday, Jan. 13. During the session, I will be providing frequent e-mail updates about the issues before us and how they may affect you back home. Please feel free to share these updates with others or have them subscribe to this newsletter on my website at www.representativeterrynealey.com.
It is shaping up to be an interesting session. Until last week, most of us thought the dominating issue would be transportation funding. However, the state Supreme Court issued an order saying that despite the Legislature increasing K-12 education funding last year by more than $1 billion, it still fell short of meeting the court's requirement for basic education funding.
“The pace of progress must quicken,” the court wrote. “We have no wish to be forced into entering specific funding directives to the State, or, as some high courts have done, holding the Legislature in contempt of court. But, it is incumbent upon the state to demonstrate, through immediate, concrete action, that it is making real and measurable progress, not simply promises.”
While I support our state's constitutional directive that “it is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,” I am concerned our state Supreme Court has forgotten the separation of powers. It is the Legislature's job to determine and appropriate funding of education – not the court's.
Whatever the debate, most agree the court order likely pushes education funding as the dominating issue for the 2014 session.
On Tuesday, we heard several other issues that Gov. Jay Inslee would like the Legislature to work on this session. In his State of the State address, the governor said he wants to see the state's minimum wage raised by another $2.50 an hour. This, despite the fact that Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the nation. Inslee suggested raising taxes to meet the high court's requirements on education funding, saying, “Promises don't educate our children. We must weigh tax breaks against the increasing call for action.” And the governor said he would like action on climate change, but he stopped short of providing any details. The governor has previously talked about imposing low-carbon fuel standards by executive order, which could increase the price of gasoline and diesel fuel by a dollar a gallon. But nothing was mentioned by Inslee about that proposal during his State of the State address.
Obviously, many of my House Republican colleagues and I have concerns about all of these proposals. Our state's economy is still very fragile. Tax increases and proposals that would place further burdens on our small businesses would further delay economic recovery – or worse, by sending us back into a recession.
I believe this legislative session would be much more productive if we focus on jobs and getting people back to work.
Also, the biennial budget was written last year. We don't need to be re-opening the process. This session is meant to craft a supplemental budget that addresses unanticipated changes or demands in state programs, deals with an emergency, or corrects technical errors in the original budget.
The good news is that this is the first time in several years we have begun a legislative session without a budget shortfall. Revenues, however, remain flat. There's not a lot of wiggle room in the budget. So we need to pass a supplemental budget within existing revenues and finish this session within the allotted 60 days.
As always, I invite your comments. During the legislative session, our district offices in Walla Walla and Pasco are closed. However, you can reach me through my office in Olympia at (360) 786-7828 or via e-mail at email@example.com. I also invite you to check out my website for news and information: www.representativeterrynealey.com. For legislative schedules, committee meeting times and bill information, go to: www.leg.wa.gov. You may also leave a message for me or any legislator on the Legislature's toll-free hotline: 1-800-562-6000.
I encourage you to watch the actions of your Legislature closely and become involved. Feel free to contact me at any time.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!