OPINION EDITORIAL: Education funding likely to dominate 2017 session as new 16th District team begins work at state Capitol
It is an honor to be back in Olympia representing the 16th Legislative District during the 2017 legislative session. This year, the 16th District team looks a little different. Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, returns to the House, beginning his eighth year in office. As you may know, longtime Sen. Mike Hewitt has retired. Maureen Walsh, the senior 16th District representative, ran for and won Hewitt's Senate seat, now becoming Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla. That left an opening for her House seat which was filled by our newest member, Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser.
Bill brings leadership experience in education, having served as president of the Prosser School Board — something that will be very important as we debate education funding and reforms this session. Bill also comes with an extensive business background in investments and viticulture. We are proud to work together as a team to represent our district in the Legislature.
Because the Washington State Supreme Court has set a hard deadline to address the McCleary decision, the Legislature must satisfy the state's constitutional requirement to fully fund basic education during this legislative session.
In the last four years, the Legislature responded by providing an additional $4.6 billion for K-12 education. The remaining question, which must be answered this session, is how to end our overreliance on local levies to fund basic education. No one has the complete answer yet. That's what the legislative process is all about. Education Task Force members worked during the interim on concepts that will be considered this session. We'll likely see proposals from both parties and then it will be a process of public debates and compromises.
Other likely emerging issues include:
- Real ID – The federal Real ID Act passed by Congress 12 years ago requires government-issued identification, such as driver's licenses, meet higher security standards. But Washington hasn't fully complied with the mandate and now faces a deadline. Those holding Washington licenses that don't meet Real ID standards won't be able to board domestic flights after Jan. 22, 2018 without additional identification, such as a passport. Expect the Legislature to seek changes to meet the Real ID standards.
- Water rights – Known as “The Hirst decision,” a court ruling earlier this year doesn't affect existing water rights, but casts doubt on whether new wells for homes can be drilled anywhere in the state. We need to fix this problem.
- Taxes – Gov. Jay Inslee wants to raise taxes by $5.3 billion in the 2017-19 state budget, including a new capital gains tax, a carbon tax and a business and occupation tax increase on personal services. We believe education should be funded first, priorities should be set with the funding we have, and tax increases should always be the last resort.
Your input is important as we move forward in the 2017 session. Here's how to reach us in Olympia:
Rep. Terry Nealey
Rep. Bill Jenkin
Sen. Maureen Walsh
Go to our websites for additional ways to contact us. Also, be sure to watch this column each week throughout session as we take turns discussing individual issues and bills we are advancing. Thank you for the honor of allowing us to serve you!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton; Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla; and Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser; serve the 16th Legislative District.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Washington State Legislature.