Tag Archives: Majority Coalition Caucus

IN THE NEWS: Pioneering lawmakers are making history

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Late in November 2012, I traveled to our state Capitol for the biennial re-organization of my Senate Republican Caucus.

Held in even years shortly after each general election, “re-org” is our equivalent of a board meeting: Caucus members vote on leadership positions and set the agenda for the upcoming session.

During my time in Olympia, I’ve seen majorities change. I’ve also seen gaps between the minority caucus and majority caucus narrow and widen.

In 2007, the number of Republican senators dropped to 17. By 2012, our numbers had grown to 23. There was talk of our reaching 25 seats and taking the majority in the 49-member Senate at the next election.

Then, in a historic turn of events, my colleagues and I claimed the majority in the Senate by ditching the traditional partisan approach and forming the Majority Coalition Caucus. We were a rabble of 23 Republicans and two Democrats who decided to govern differently and more effectively by following a set of shared principles — so much so that we broke the mold and forged our own future.

Being a member of the majority caucus in the Senate – and in the House of Representatives for that matter – comes with a mix of responsibility and influence.

Typically, the majority presides over every committee and decides which bills move forward. In true Majority Coalition Caucus fashion, we offered a handful of committee-leadership positions to Democrats comprising what was now the new minority caucus. Most were feeling jilted and rejected the offer, but a couple – either intrigued by the possibilities or motivated by a desire to stay at the table – accepted.

I’ll admit there were a few stumbles at first, but we collectively held our breath. Now, at more than halfway through our fourth legislative session, we’ve swapped a few members but we’re still the majority and we’re hitting our stride.

Over the past three sessions, we’ve upended priorities from past regimes; education has moved squarely to the top of the list. In the 30 years prior to the the Majority Coalition Caucus, the slice of the state budget dedicated to education had been shrinking. Under our watch, K-12 funding has jumped to 47 percent of the state’s budget – without raising general taxes or cutting services.

We put the brakes on runaway college costs in 2013 by freezing tuition at our state schools. That action provided the momentum for 2015 when the caucus cut tuition at all of Washington’s state-run colleges and universities, including our community colleges. A simple, yet revolutionary idea, so much so that no other state had ever done it.

The results have been immediate. This past fall, nearby Central Washington University saw first-year enrollment increase 21 percent over the previous year.

The current legislative session a “short” 60-day session, is scheduled to end March 10. Would there be reason for the majority to step out boldly again?

On Feb. 5, the majority caucus-led Senate rejected the confirmation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s candidate to head up the state Department of Transportation. One of the Senate’s unique duties is to confirm or reject gubernatorial appointments.

While I grudgingly admit our action wasn’t completely historic (we last exercised this option in 1998), judging from the angry cries of the governor and Seattle-based press, it might as well have been. According to the governor, our job is to rubber-stamp his appointments regardless of their lack of experience, mismanagement or project failures.

Our job, as we in the majority caucus see it, is to act in the best interest of the people who have elected us. Judging from the response I’ve gotten from drivers all over Washington, the folks who are paying for roads, bridges, buses and “mega” projects appreciate our oversight.

What do we have up our sleeve for the 2017 legislative session? There are three weeks left in the current legislative session and many more problem agencies.

We may still have more history to write in 2016.

The original article, published February 19, 2016, can be viewed here.

Honeyford calls supplemental operating budget ‘good for Washington’

Senator Jim HoneyfordMembers of the state Senate today passed the 2014 supplemental operating budget proposal, which was supported by Sen. Jim Honeyford. The Sunnyside Republican noted that last year’s balanced, bipartisan budget was the primary reason for broad agreement on the supplemental budget more than two weeks before the end of the 60-day legislative session.

“The Majority Coalition Caucus produced a budget in 2013 that put more than a billion dollars into education, froze tuition for Washington college students and was projected to balance for four years,” said Honeyford, who represents the 15th Legislative District. “Because of that success there was no need to find places to cut this year. We didn’t have to look for ‘low-hanging fruit’ or waste valuable time trying to prioritize equally important provisions. When budgets are written right the first time, it makes the process that much easier to fine tune in supplemental years.” Continue reading

Honeyford bill would spare honeybee industry from sting of B&O tax

honeybee-honeycomb-macro_26201_990x742The Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee today considered a bill aimed at putting more buzz into the state’s honeybee industry. Senate Bill 6402, sponsored by Sunnyside Sen. Jim Honeyford, would exempt honeybee products and services from the state’s onerous business and occupation tax by defining them as agricultural products.

“Washington has many crops that depend upon bees for pollination to produce profitable crops,” said Honeyford, who serves as ranking Republican on the committee. “All kinds of products come from bees, including honey, pollen, beeswax, propolis, and many others. Just as the state considers milk that comes from cows to be an agricultural product, so should it consider products derived from honeybees.”

Washington is the only state to impose a business and occupations tax, which is levied on the gross receipts of all business activities. Unlike a corporate net income tax, there are no deductions for the costs of doing business. Small businesses often struggle in their first several years just to make a profit; many in Washington fail as a result of hitting the low B&O threshold but ending up in the red and losing money. Continue reading

2014 Session Begins with high hopes, challenges

Today began the 60-day legislative session for 2014, and it also marks the first session we’ve seen in a long time that is beginning without a deficit to reconcile. That’s due to the balanced, reform-focused budget proposed and passed by the Majority Coalition Caucus in 2013. Last year we promised to work on creating jobs, improving education and adopting sustainable budgets and we’ve done just that.

But there is more to be done. Our state’s economy has been slow to improve post-recession and we need to continue finding ways to get people back to work. Last year we put about a billion dollars into K-12 education; an unprecedented amount yes, but not nearly enough according to the Washington State Supreme Court. We’ve got our work cut out for us in the area of education again this year. Continue reading

Transportation is topic number one in Olympia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is an aerial view of Interstate 82 in Yakima (courtesy WSDOT). It’s just one of dozens of projects that would be completed if the latest statewide transportation package is passed into law. But there’s a catch…it comes with an 11.5-cent gas tax increase.

That’s not to say it’s a no-brainer “no” vote. After all, the package proposed by the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) also includes landmark reforms that will streamline the state’s transportation system and save taxpayers millions down the road (so to speak). It will also keep the state Department of Transportation accountable for its mistakes and oversights, reduce the regulatory burden on transportation construction projects and ensure tolls are kept in the area where they are enacted, among other things.

The MCC proposal would fully fund two major projects in Yakima County: the east-west corridor overpass and bridge ($45 million) and economic development improvements to I-82 in Union Gap ($56 million). Continue reading

Second special session begins with no budget agreement

sinedieOn Tuesday, the Washington State Legislature adjourned Sine Die (it’s Latin for “without a day” and pronounced “SIGH-nee-DYE”) for the second time this year. Yesterday, we began the second special session of 2013 – our third session of the year – with only one priority: pass a state budget.

While I’d like to say that both sides are working collaboratively to reach a common ground, the fact is the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has already passed two bipartisan compromise budgets and Democrats in the House of Representatives are simply refusing to back away from their wish list of new and increased taxes. This, despite the fact that the state is projected to receive over two billion dollars in new revenue for the upcoming 2013-15 biennium (two-year budget cycle). Continue reading

Sunnyside solon calls for Legislature to get back to work

Washington State Senate

Upon realizing the 105-day 2013 legislative session would end without the passage of a state budget, 15th District Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, made this statement:

“I believe it’s terribly shameful that the Legislature couldn’t get a budget out after nearly four months, especially since the state is receiving $2 billion more in revenue and the fact that the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus passed and sent to the House a budget that lives within the revenue the state is expected to receive over the next four years. Historically, the Legislature slows down when the pressure is off, and if we end up leaving town during a ‘rolling special session’ the pressure needed to reach a deal in a timely manner is drastically reduced. Continue reading

Halfway to the finish line of the 2013 session

Honeyford on the floorWe’ve passed the middle of the 2013 legislative session, and at this point the most significant deadline was reached on March 13. Known as “floor cutoff,” it was the last day most bills could be considered by their body of origin. In other words, all Senate bills considered not necessary to implement the budget had to be passed by the Senate and vice-versa in the House of Representatives.

Under Majority Coalition Caucus leadership, this year the Senate has been more productive than any other time in the past four years. We passed 276 bills over to the House, many of which were sponsored by members of the minority caucus. We’ve set the bar high for passing the most bills sponsored by members of the minority in recent history, holding true to the Majority’s stated goals of true bipartisanship. Continue reading

Revenue forecast shows $2 billion more

$2 billion moreOn Wednesday, March 20, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced we will have nearly two billion additional dollars for the 2013-15 operating budget. This news has been extremely well-received and has strengthened the resolve of the Majority Coalition Caucus to not raise your taxes. Despite reports to the contrary, we are close to reaching a budget compromise that will provide more funding for higher education as well as significantly fund K-12 education to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

Here in Olympia, the constant talk of budget cuts has all but evaporated, and we are able to start reprioritizing your tax dollars to focus on what matters most. Some pet programs may not receive the increases they would like, but we are no longer taking money away from vital programs and services. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the 2013-15 budget as it is made public.

Click here to read the full Olympia Report for March 26, 2013.

Our “10-3-50” plan to reduce tuition and fund higher education

Higher EducationOver the last few years, the state has cut more than 30 percent out of the funding provided for our colleges and universities. Because of those funding cuts, tuition rates are at all-time highs. This past week, the Majority Coalition Caucus rolled out our “10-3-50” plan that will increase funding for our higher education institutions by 10 percent (an additional $300 million). The plan will also reduce tuition rates by three percent and provide $50 million in competitive funding for colleges and universities.

We cannot continue to cut the funding for higher education every time we need to balance the state’s budget. If we do not lower the cost of higher education, our students will continue to incur debt at a record pace. This is not a fix-all plan, but it starts the conversation about what we need to provide a world-class education to every student, not just those willing to be saddled with debt.

Click here to read the full Olympia Report for March 26, 2013.