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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's official: the Legislature will go into a special session to finish its business, most importantly to pass a state budget. Many of us had hoped to be done on time, by the scheduled April 26 end date, but there are still big differences between the governor, the Senate and the House on whether and how much to raise taxes.
Budget: Living within our means
With the state getting $3 billion more in tax revenues this budget cycle, it seems to me we should try to live within our means. Gov. Inslee and Democrats in the House and Senate, however, believe state government needs new taxes to pay for services.
Everyone agrees on boosting K-12 education funding after three decades of state neglect. Whatever budget we eventually get, public schools will see about an 18-percent increase.
It would be great to keep lower tuition for state colleges and universities in the budget, as Senate Republicans proposed. Middle-class students and families have really been squeezed by rising tuition costs, making college less and less affordable.
Budget negotiations will continue, and I hope that politics can be set aside so we can reach a solution that spends your tax dollars responsibly and effectively.
Transportation: Reforms before new revenues
On April 14 I voted “no” on a gas-tax and fee-increase package in the House Transportation Committee. Our community certainly needs transportation improvements to lessen traffic congestion, but just as important is reforming our transportation system.
Serious problems — like the stalled Bertha tunnel machine, 520 cost-overruns, ferry system waste and 405 toll and HOV-lane controversies — are a constant reminder that the state transportation department (WSDOT) is not doing nearly enough to safeguard tax dollars. Taxpayers shouldn't be expected to pay higher taxes until we demand meaningful cost-savings.
I would be willing to vote for a transportation revenue package, as long as it contains reforms that guarantee better use of public money.
If you'd like to hear more about transportation and the special session, click here to watch my video update.
New district office!
I'm pleased to announce that on Monday, May 4, my Mill Creek district office will be officially open. You are welcome to stop by or call. If you'd like to set up an appointment or have me come speak to a local group, just let us know and either my Legislative Aide Cami or I would be happy to help you.
Our new address is 15129 Main Street, Suite 201, Mill Creek, WA 98012. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We don't have a phone number set up yet, so for now feel free to call our Olympia number (below). And you can always email me at Mark.Harmsworth@leg.wa.gov.
That's all for now. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions, comments and ideas. Thanks, and have a good weekend.
466 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7892 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000