Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 20-day special session, the Legislature adjourned on March 29. It was disappointing we couldn’t reach an agreement in the 60-day regular session, but I am mostly pleased with the final supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets.
The supplemental operating budget is not perfect, but in many respects this budget truly hits home. It includes $3 million for on-site worker training at Bellingham Technical College to alleviate problems caused by the idling of Alcoa Intalco’s Ferndale plant. You can read Rep. Vincent Buys and my statement here.
The supplemental budget added about $191 million to the $38 billion operating budget lawmakers passed nine months ago. It also used about $190 million from the rainy day fund to pay for the devastating wildfires from last year. This is why we have this fund – to use for unexpected emergencies.
This budget makes new investments in our state’s mental health system and begins to address our state’s teacher shortage. It does this with NO tax increases. Perhaps most importantly, it complies with the four-year balanced budget outlook – something the Democrats have openly opposed.
The supplemental capital budget provides funding for infrastructure for our K-12 schools, higher education institutions, state prisons and more. It also funds stewardship projects that protect our waterways, environment and farmlands. This session 42nd District legislators secured funding for two projects this session:
- $77,000 to begin the design and engineering phase of the much-needed Kendall Trail along SR 547 from the Kendall Elementary School to South Pass Road. This trail is needed to enhance the safety and mobility of people and cyclists along this stretch of highway.
- $400,000 for the city of Lynden to begin the Pepin Creek realignment to prevent future flooding in both urban and agricultural areas, as well as provide safe fish passage.
The Legislature also passed a strong, bipartisan supplemental transportation budget. Some noteworthy projects in the 42nd District received funding:
- $40 million will go toward upgrades to improvements on State Route 539 in Lynden, adding two more lanes to the Guide Meridian between Birch Bay-Lynden Road and West Badger Road.
- $19 million will go toward work on Thornton Road in Ferndale, connecting Thornton Street to a nearby roundabout by a bridge crossing over railroad tracks.
The budget also included $16.3 million to implement recruitment and retention, as well as increased compensation, for our Washington State Patrol officers.
During the last week of the regular session, the governor threatened to veto legislation unless we could reach a budget agreement by the March 10 deadline. When an agreement was not reached, he vetoed 27 bills that had broad bipartisan support. The governor’s actions were unnecessary and did nothing to help budget negotiations. Both parties expressed frustration with this move. He vetoed legislation that would have:
- removed obstacles for higher education students with disabilities;
- assisted the state Apple Commission to help promote the apple industry;
- promoted economic development;
- created jobs by authorizing the growing of industrial hemp;
- reauthorized the Invasive Species Council account;
- reduced the costs of prescription drugs; and
- increased the availability of affordable housing.
It requires a lot of hard work to get legislation through the legislative process. It is disappointing and very unfortunate he chose this veto action instead of being more proactive in reaching a budget solution. On the final day of the special session both parties worked together and overrode the governor’s vetoes by large margins and enacted the bills into law.
Last Friday the governor signed my House Bill 2623, that exempts statewide advisory ballot measures from expensive recounts. It is a common sense, cost-saving measure to the taxpayers of Washington. Because the Legislature had adjourned I was unable to make it to the bill signing.
While we have finished the legislative session, please feel free to call me during the interim. I am excited to be back in Whatcom County. My calendar is already filling up. Here are a couple groups I am scheduled to meet with in the near future:
- Cascade Connections, a local organization enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities by providing residential and vocational opportunities;
- Meridian School District’s Career and Technical Education Center;
- Whatcom Family YMCA; and
- Whatcom County Conservation District.
I am interested in ideas for bills that you may have, projects your organization may be working on, or contact me if you need assistance dealing with a state government agency. I would enjoy the chance to hear from you. I look forward to seeing you this interim.
Luanne Van Werven