Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There are less than two weeks of the regular legislative session left. Both the House and Senate have passed operating budget proposals. You can watch my video update by clicking on the photo below – not only does it give you a brief overview of the budgets, but it provides a beautiful look around the Capitol campus and I interview a very special guest.
The House Democrats' budget passed on a 51-47 party-line vote, with all Republicans voting no. It was an easy “no” for me and my colleagues in the Republican caucus. The House majority party wants to spend approximately $39 billion, and include $1.5 billion in new taxes and tax increases over the next two years. For the 2017-19 biennium, the total amount of new and increased taxes would go up $2.4 billion more. They want to increase spending by 15 percent over the last biennium. The hardworking taxpayers of our state are sending an additional $3 billion to Olympia. We can and should balance the budget without raising taxes.
The Democrats' tax plan includes a 5 percent capital gains tax, and a 20 percent increase of the B&O tax on certain service businesses. To view the full list of businesses that would have to pay the increase in B&O tax click Business Tax List.
The Senate Republican budget proposal spends about $38 billion without raising taxes. While the funding level to education is similar to the House version it takes an innovative approach to a couple different aspects of the budget. First, it reduces college tuition by 25 percent, a cost many of our middle-class families and students are struggling with today. The Senate budget also provides a $2,000 pay raise over two years to all state workers, providing a higher percentage to lower-paid workers and lowering the wage gap among state employees. Click the graph to get a closer look at the two budgets.
The House did pass a strong, bipartisan budget by a vote of 96-2. However, there are some differences between the House and Senate versions of the capital budget that need to be worked out before we know exactly what will be in the final capital budget package.
If you watched the video, you will know I had the honor of sponsoring my niece, Emma Rae Van Werven, as a page last week. It was great to have her working on the Capitol campus.
Each year, students from around the state apply to participate in the legislative page program. Students spend a week attending page school, learning the inner workings of state government and assisting legislators on the House floor. Pages earn $35 per day while serving in the program.
To become a page, applicants must have a legislative sponsor, be between the ages of 14 and 16, and obtain written permission from their parents and school. For more information click: House page program.
Last Thursday was Beef Day in Olympia. This annual event is put on by the Washington Cattlemen's Associations, the Washington Cattle Feeders Association and the Washington State Dairy Federation. I am proud to say some of the members of the organizations who helped with the event are from Whatcom County. While we get to enjoy the great beef they BBQ for elected officials and staff on campus, it is a great time for us remember the farmers, ranchers, orchardists and producers who do so much to feed our state, nation and the rest of the world. Watch a fun video put together by our video staff by clicking Beef Day!
Luanne Van Werven