Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 60-day regular session that ended March 10, our special session finished late last night after we approved supplemental operating and capital budgets, and restored 27 bills to law that had been vetoed by Gov. Inslee. It's good to be coming home with these sessions finally behind us.
Supplemental operating budget
A tentative agreement was reached over the weekend on a supplemental operating budget and we were called back to the Legislature to begin taking votes yesterday. The first vote was on the compromise supplemental operating budget, House Bill 2376, which was approved 78-17. Here are the highlights:
- It increases spending by $191 million over the current $38.5 billion 2015-17 operating budget.
- About $40 million is directed for mental-health programs and the state's two mental hospitals.
- There's about $7 million to recruit and retain K-12 staff and support for beginning teachers.
- The budget provides $29 million for overtime of home health-care providers due to federal rule changes.
- As much as $18 million is appropriated for state need-grant college funding, and there's $8 million to help backfill costs to keep tuition reduced at state colleges and universities.
- The agreement also uses $190 million in budget reserves to pay for wildfire suppression last year.
- It does not contain or rely upon the millions of dollars of tax increases House Democrats originally proposed (see page two of this link).
Unfortunately, the state's Public Works Trust Fund is swept to help fund the supplemental operating budget. This money is important to our local municipalities to help finance water, sewer and other infrastructure. Without this, it will cost more for local governments to finance their projects.
No budget is perfect. While I have concerns, I felt the positives outweighed the negatives in this budget plan. So I voted yes. You can get more information about the supplemental operating budget here.
Legislature overrides governor's vetoes
When a supplemental operating budget agreement was not produced by March 10, Gov. Inslee made good on his threat to veto bills. Of 37 Senate bills on his desk, he vetoed 27 of them. These were Republican and Democrat bills, passed with bipartisan support. The governor's actions were not helpful toward advancing budget negotiations.
It takes a two-thirds majority of those present in the House and Senate to successfully override a veto. On Monday, the Senate took the historic action of overriding every one of the governor's vetoes on those 27 bills. Before adjourning last night, the House followed suit, voting to override and ensure these legislatively approved bills become law.
Nealey's bills await governor's signature
I'm very pleased two of my tax reform bills passed the Legislature and are on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. House Bill 2539 will ensure surviving spouses are no longer charged a real estate excise tax on their inherited real property. House Bill 2540 will reduce the penalty against those who make a mistake on their tax form when reporting tax preferences they have received from the state. Get more details about these bills from my opinion editorial.
Visiting with our local media
Last week, Rep. Maureen Walsh and I took time to drive through the 16th District, stopping at local newspaper offices, and KEPR-TV (see the report here) and KONA Radio in Pasco, to provide an update of the recently completed legislative session. Our visit began early Thursday morning in Dayton with Loyal Baker, publisher of The Chronicle. See the photo below.
Local achievements honored
During the final days of the regular session, Rep. Maureen Walsh and I introduced resolutions honoring the Walla Walla Frontier Days sesquicentennial and the Prosser High School football team.
The Walla Walla Frontier Days is the oldest fair in the state, having been first staged in 1866 by the Walla Walla Agricultural Society. I am very proud of this rich history from our local area. The House approved House Resolution 4679, giving the fair the honor and recognition it deserves.
We also took time to pay tribute to the Prosser High School football team, winner of the 2015 Class 2A state championship and five previous championships. Several players (shown below) got up at 4 a.m. and joined Coach Cory Ingvalson to make the trip to Olympia to accept House Resolution 4680, unanimously adopted in the House.
District office re-opened
Now that we've adjourned the regular session and the end of the special session is upon us, I have re-opened my district office in Walla Walla. My legislative assistant, Meagan Allen, is ready to help you. Please contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government or possible legislation. You'll find the phone number and address below.