Well, the Legislature started its second 30-day special session on Tuesday, May 23. It is frustrating special sessions have become normal operations in Olympia. However, I am encouraged that the K-12 education negotiators are making progress on the monumental task of reaching a solution to fund education and no longer relying on local levies to do so.
While negotiations are progressing, it is has been tough and lengthy process. The amount of detail involved is extensive. The House Democrat and Senate Republican plans you hear about are no longer the framework for the overall plan. The framework now being used is a plan House Republicans began working on almost a year ago. Every step of the way we continue to ask: How would this affect our students, school districts and taxpayers? Details are being kept confidential given the tenuous nature of negotiations. We hope to be able to share more in the next couple weeks.
Rep. Van Werven and Whatcom Community College President Kathi Hiyane-Brown.
Budget debate – governor says no capital gains income or business tax
Once the education piece is agreed upon, we believe it shouldn't take long to put the remainder of the operating budget together. Given the amount of money and detail being debated in the education funding plan, it would be extremely difficult to have a final budget in place without knowing for sure what the education finance piece entails. The governor did give us some good news last week. He said a capital gains income tax was off the table as well as taxes on business. That is good news because these taxes would hurt our small Whatcom County businesses and families.
The bad news is the governor did suggest ideas such as an internet sales tax, adjusting the real estate excise tax, closing tax exemptions and even a carbon tax. He may think those are still on the table, but not in my mind. I do not believe they have the votes and they are not needed to meet our budget priorities.
Remember, we are expected to see more than a 13 percent increase in tax revenues. These are tax dollars coming into our state from you, the taxpayers. We should be able to fully fund education and balance a budget without any tax increases.
Governor vetoes Blaine transportation project
The Legislature passed a strong, bipartisan transportation budget during the regular session. We were able to secure emergency funding for the Lynden collapsed culvert. You may recall after February's excessive snow and rainstorms, a section of North 8th Street was wiped out, causing a culvert to collapse. Rep. Buys and I worked to allocate funds to repair the sinkhole, as well as funds to continue the realignment of Pepin Creek. We also were able to get funding for a new northbound on-ramp at Bakerview Road, and a new overpass at Thornton Road in Ferndale.
Unfortunately, the governor vetoed an important project for the 42nd Legislative District. The transportation budget included $12 million for the city of Blaine/exit 274 interchange project. The public benefits from this project would have been substantial for economic development and improving freight mobility.
We received no heads-up from the governor's office about the veto. It was discouraging and frustrating. You can read Rep. Buys' and my strongly-worded statement here.
It ended up being just one of a number of disappointing partisan vetoes. His vetoes seemed directed at our rural and coastal communities, knowing full well the economy in the Puget Sound region is booming, but other parts of the state are far behind in economic development and employment rates. The governor often talks about “One Washington,” but we are not seeing it.
Memorial Day – a day of remembrance
I had the privilege of speaking at two Memorial Day events on Monday. I want to thank those who gave me the opportunity to speak. It was my great honor to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers and their families. Their service and sacrifice gave us the freedoms we enjoy every day. I hope you were able to take time to attend a service or event honoring our ultimate heroes.
Rep. Van Werven speaks at Memorial Day event.
Please remember I am available to meet and speak with groups and organizations in Whatcom County during the interim. Traveling around the district and meeting with people gives me input and important feedback on the issues we have before us. I look forward to seeing you around the 42nd District.
In Olympia or at home in Whatcom County, I am honored to serve as your representative.
Luanne Van Werven