Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned sine die on Friday, April 24. Unfortunately, a special session is needed and it officially started Wednesday, April 29.
There is no excuse for a special session. I am disappointed the Legislature could not get their work done in the 105 day regular session. The citizens of Washington expect us to have a balanced budget done on time. The $3 billion increase in tax collections – the largest in state history – should be enough to increase K-12 investments, protect our most vulnerable, make mental health reforms and reduce college tuition. House Republicans will continue to push for a spending plan that has no new taxes, is fiscally responsible, and lives within our means as the special session moves forward.
House Republicans did advocate for starting the special session Monday, April 27 with the intentions of staying in Olympia and getting done as soon as possible. However, the governor and House Democrats had other ideas. An article in the Bellingham Herald explains why the delay in starting the special session: 4-day break between legislative sessions means fundraising time in state House race.
I am disappointed some local teachers' unions decided to hold one-day strikes to protest the Legislature. The Washington Education Association (WEA), the state's largest teachers' union, has been running radio ads making false claims about the Senate education funding proposal. I think it is important to clarify some of the misinformation.
- WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to “shortchange” pay and benefits for teachers and school staff.
- FACT: The Senate operating budget would bring teacher COLAs to voter-approved levels.
- WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to increase class sizes – even for kids in high-poverty schools.
- FACT: The bipartisan Senate capital budget would build 2,100 more classrooms to reduce K-3 class sizes.
- WEA's claim: The Senate Republicans are likely getting an 11 percent pay increase.
- FACT: The Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials determines lawmaker salaries and raises, NOT the Legislature. If it is decided lawmakers will receive a raise, it will be ALL lawmakers and the governor.
- If the commission approves raises for legislators, I will be donating my pay increase to the Engedi Refuge, a charity organization that provides a safe home, education, rehabilitation and counseling for women who have suffered from sexual exploitation and trafficking.
The Senate budget proposal this year gives K-12 the biggest share of spending seen in 30 years. They propose spending $2.7 billion more for K-12 than was spent two years ago, about an 18 percent increase.
There was some good news last week. My prime-sponsored piece of legislation was signed into law. House Bill 1806 is a good efficiency bill, cleans up election laws and it even shrinks state government a little bit.
Amendment for Pt. Roberts
During the regular legislative session the House voted on a maintenance and operation transportation budget (not the transportation package that includes a gas tax). During the debate, I offered an amendment that would have provided $40,000 for the Blaine School District and bus service for the students living in Pt. Roberts. Those familiar with the district know they have a unique situation and students are unable to participate in after school programs because of the limited transportation. My amendment would have addressed that, but unfortunately it failed after being rejected by the majority party in the House. Click here to watch my floor speech.
The transportation budget was not passed before we adjourned the regular session. I am still working to address this issue for Pt. Roberts in a final negotiated transportation budget.
Keep in touch
While the Legislature may be in special session I hope you will continue to stay in contact with me on any issues we may be discussing or debating. Your input is important to me.
Luanne Van Werven