Late in November 2012, I traveled to our state Capitol for the biennial re-organization of my Senate Republican Caucus.
Members 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
The 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
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
This 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
On 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
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
We’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
On 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.
Over 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.