Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Friday, July 10, the official business of the 2015 Washington State legislative session finally came to a conclusion. The Legislature approved a $38 billion operating budget. I voted “yes” and the budget passed by a vote of 90-8 in the House and 38-10 in the Senate. In fact, it was the strongest budget vote in the House in about 26 years.
In this email update I will break down the good and bad of the spending plan, provide an update on the capital budget, and will also let you know why I voted against the largest tax increase in state history – a $16 billion transportation gas tax package passed by the Legislature.
Operating budget – the good
I voted in favor of the operating budget. The final budget reflected a lot of hard work and long negotiations by members of both chambers and parties, made historic strides in tuition reduction, mental health and education funding and ended up with no major tax increases, despite Democrats and Gov. Inslee advocating for up to $1.5 billion in tax increases starting back in December. The operating budget:
- invests an additional $1.3 billion in K-12 education to meet the McCleary judicial ruling;
- cuts tuition for thousands of students in community and state colleges across the state;
- does not include a capital gains income tax, carbon tax, or bottled water tax;
- makes significant investments in treatment and capacity for our mentally ill health programs to get people the help they need and address public safety concerns; and
- provides a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to teachers and state employees.
Not only is the tuition reduction component of the budget historic, students and middle class families in Whatcom County and across the state will see a much-needed reduction in next year’s rates.
Like any compromise, there are some elements to the spending plan I do not support and have some concerns. The operating budget:
- does provide funding for Planned Parenthood;
- takes money out of the state Public Works Trust Fund – the account our local governments rely on for infrastructure and construction projects;
- does not extend some tax “exemptions” or “loopholes” as they are sometimes referred; and
- it establishes a click through nexus for purposes of collecting B&O and retail sales taxes on internet businesses.
It is important to point out that total abortion expenditures in Planned Parenthood are decreasing. I do not support funding for this organization but until we have Republican majorities in both Houses and a Republican governor, we will not be able to defund this organization completely.
There was also a separate bill, House Bill 6138, for the nexus legislation. I opposed this legislation but it passed by a vote of 60-38 and was then included in the budget.
The Legislature did pass a gas tax as part of a $16 billion transportation gas tax revenue package. I adamantly opposed the transportation package and voted against the massive gas tax increase. This will be the highest tax in Washington state history. Drivers in our state will pay almost 68 cents in gas taxes (state and federal) for each gallon of gas purchased, making it one of the highest in the nation. The transportation reforms passed along with the gas tax legislation do not go nearly far enough to reform our transportation department and system.
It is also a bad deal for Whatcom County. Over the next 16 years, our county will pay $96 million more in gas taxes than we get back in projects.
We passed a strong, bipartisan capital budget. This construction package provides classrooms for K-12 education, higher education, correction facilities and stewardship projects protecting our farmlands and water. The budget also includes $2 million for the construction of a new water pipe in Lynden to deliver water from the Darigold plant to the Nooksack River. This is a vital project for Lynden and will help alleviate the city’s water limit as they will receive credit for the water it discharges into the river.
Legislative Day Book
It is good to be back in district! To keep you updated on what I am working on and who I am meeting with, I will share my calendar, or Legislative Day Book in my email updates. Here is a list of recent events:
- 4th of July – Blaine’s Old Fashioned 4th of July Parade;
- Monday, July 6 – AWAKE Whatcom;
- Tuesday, July 7 – Republican Women of Whatcom County luncheon and Civil Air Patrol Award Ceremony; and
- Wednesday, July 8 – Lynden Kiwanis and Whatcom Council of Government meeting; and
- Friday, July 9 – Ride-along on a raspberry harvester at Randy Honcoop Farm.
These are a few of the community events I’ve enjoyed attending. If you know of an event I should attend, or a business or facility I could tour please contact my office so we can make arrangements.
I look forward to seeing you back in district.
Luanne Van Werven