Senate delivers on major issues facing the state: budget, transportation and tuition cuts

Friday marked the end of the Legislature’s regular session. Sen. Barbara Bailey noted the significant legislation passed by the Senate including a no-new-taxes budget, bipartisan transportation package, college-tuition reductions, mental health reform and a capital budget that builds 2,100 classrooms to lower class size from kindergarten through third grade.

“We have prioritized our efforts to reflect what the people of the state have told us are important,” said Bailey, R- Oak Harbor “We have prioritized education, promoted tax relief for working families and passed a budget that makes good use of $3 billion in additional projected revenue, without raising taxes.”

“I’m disappointed that the House Democrats have continued to delay budget negotiations by failing to pass a complete operating budget,” said Bailey. “The House budget is merely a wish list without the additional $1.5 billion in taxes to cover their spending.”

Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to continue budget negotiations that begins April 29.

“As we enter the special session we need to have a clear goal in mind,” said Bailey. “The Senate Majority Leader has said we need to finish by May 15. That is so schools will be able to adequately plan their budgets or else they will have to send out lay-off notices. That doesn’t make sense since both the House and Senate are committed to putting a significant amount of money toward education. Our students, teachers and schools cannot wait.”

Bailey noted the Senate’s accomplishments in addition to its operating budget and bipartisan transportation package, including:

Full funding of K-12 education – 47 percent of the Senate budget is dedicated to basic education. As a percentage of the budget, it hasn’t been that high since Gov. John Spellman was in office (1981-85). The Senate budget adds $1.3 billion for K-12 schools, addressing the 2012 McCleary court decision and providing teacher cost-of-living pay raises.

First tuition reduction in over 40 years – The Senate budget, coupled with its College Affordability Program legislation (Senate Bill 5954), would cut college tuition at four-year institutions by an average of 25 percent, helping 200,000 students and saving families over $300 million through lower college costs.

A capital budget that builds 2,100 classrooms – This complements the Senate operating-budget priority on lowering class sizes for K-3 grades (the House capital budget does not).

Tougher drunken-driving law – 4th DUI in 10 years is now charged as a felony, meaning state prison instead of county jail.

Energy and carbon reduction plan – The Senate led the way on clean energy with passage of Senate Bill 5735, a practical carbon-reduction plan. This measure does not require the large and damaging tax increases favored by the governor. No action was taken in the House.

Oil-train safety – Senate Bill 5057 provides equipment and advance notification to emergency agencies.

Reconciled medical marijuana system with recreational market – Senate Bill 5052 will protect patients and add safeguards for kids.

 Telemedicine – Senate Bill 5175 expands use of interactive technology to give rural areas more access to health care.

Mental health – Senate Bill 5269, known as ‘Joel’s Law’ to give families more options to protect loved ones dealing with mental illness.

Senior-citizen property-tax exemption – Senate Bill 5186 helps 100,000 low-income seniors stay in their homes.

Government accountability — The most ambitious state-government quality-assurance agenda in the nation passed with bipartisan support. SB 5737 gives state government the accountability tools it needs to improve quality and measure savings.
“The Senate has been waiting for the House to come to the table ready to negotiate on a budget that recognizes our commitment to taxpayers and education,” Bailey said. “And we continue to wait, and wait, and wait.”