Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 75th day of the 105-day legislative session and we are at the point of the legislative session where budget proposals are being introduced and heard in fiscal committees.
House Democrats introduced their budget today and there is a public hearing scheduled on Monday in the House Appropriations Committee. I serve on this committee so I am anxious to see the details. What we do know so far: they are propose $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes and a 13 percent hike in state spending.
I have mentioned before, we have $3 billion more in revenue coming into the state this biennium. That should be plenty of additional revenue to balance the budget, fund education, protect our most vulnerable and keep our communities safe without asking citizens for more tax dollars.
Telephone town hall
Senator Doug Ericksen, Rep. Vincent Buys and I are holding a telephone town hall Tuesday, March 31 from 6-7 p.m. The dial-in number for the event is (360) 713-9648.
You will be able to participate from the comfort of your own home. During the event you can ask questions by pressing the STAR key (*) on your telephone keypad at any time. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and concerns, and I urge you to participate.
Town hall meeting
I want to thank everyone who attended our town hall meeting on March 14. It was the most well-attended town hall in the state of all the members who held town hall events that weekend. We had questions on a variety of topics. Your input is important to me as we make decisions in Olympia affecting the 42nd District and the state of Washington.
I am part of a new coalition that has formed in Olympia called the “Keep Washington Competitive Caucus.” It includes business, labor, agriculture and trade groups as well as Republican and Democrat legislators.
It is a unique opportunity to bring so many different interests together around a common issue: our economy. The focus will be highlighting regulatory and trade issues that are essential to our state's long-term future so we can continue to keep and add more family-wage jobs.
Point Roberts transportation funding
While my legislation to assist the Blaine School District, specifically the kids taking the bus from Point Roberts, ran into some roadblocks, we are working on including it the transportation budget as a multimodal request. The request is to add a school bus for the Blaine School District to be used for Point Roberts.
Currently, those school kids have to drive through Canada and back to the U.S., two border stops and three hours total travel. Since they only have one bus the kids cannot participate in after-school activities.
The House has yet to unveil a transportation budget, so it is still early to tell if this will be included in the final transportation plan. Keep in mind, the transportation budget is separate from the gas-tax revenue proposal being considered by the Legislature.
I was approached by many Lummi Island constituents about the surcharge they pay on the ferry. It is a $3 fare no matter if you are a walk-on passenger or a truck. The surcharge increases fares for passengers 187 percent ($1.60 to $4.60) and only three percent for large trucks ($104 to $107). It certainly seems to be an inequity, especially since the fund the surcharge goes into is operating at a surplus now.
I have attached an amendment with language eliminating the surcharge to Senate Bill 5307, which relates to reimbursement of counties owning and operating ferry systems. I am hopeful it will make it through the legislative process.
If you have any comments, concerns or questions on these issues or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Luanne Van Werven