Monthly Archives: March 2015

House Budget Proposal Prioritizes Funding for Education

The State House of Representatives have unveiled their budget proposal. The Republicans argue that the economy is getting better and revenue is increasing, so we have plenty of money to fund whatever we need without raising taxes. They ignore the drastic cuts that were made during the recession that have left our state suffering. And while they may give lip-service to the idea of tax fairness, their fixation on “no new taxes” means supporting the status quo of a really unfair tax structure.

“After seven years of cuts totaling more than $12 billion, we have to take an honest look at the state of our state,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington). “We have to ask: ‘Is this really what we want?’ This budget is a stand against mediocrity. Just being ‘Okay’ is not acceptable.”

What the House Democratic Budget will do:

  • $3.2 billionAdditional K-12 spending, a 21% increase in funding over last biennium
    • $1.4 billion in K-12 policy adds that will count towards that state’s McCleary obligation including:
      • K-3 class size reduction
      • Full funding for all-day kindergarten for every child in the state
      • Materials, supplies and operating costs
      • Supports to prepare students for college and careers
    • The remaining $1.8 billion investment pays for the policy decisions made towards fully funding education in the 2013-15 budget.
  • $385 million – Restore cost-of-living adjustments for school employees.
  • $227 million – Expansion of quality early learning and childhood education.
  • $256 million – Investments in higher education including two years of tuition freezes, student financial aid, and high-demand, high-salary degrees.
  • $100 million – New mental health capacity to ensure that people get the help they need in their time of crisis.
  • $9.6 million – Restore previous cuts to the state’s Food Assistance program that feeds hungry children, families, and seniors in the state.

As a result of an unfair and outdated tax structure, state revenues are becoming increasingly inadequate to pay for essential state services like basic education, health care, and prisons. The state doesn’t have adequate resources despite a growing economy. After seven years and $12 billion in budget cuts stemming from the Great Recession, many lawmakers believe now is time to act on revenue reform.

“We have the most unfair tax structure in the nation,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), House Finance committee chair. “Our tax system hurts working families, the middle class, and small businesses, while the wealthiest individuals and corporations don’t pay their fair share. It’s time to build fairness in the system so that we can make critical investments in our state’s economy.”
Read more from the House Democrats

Legislative cut-off shows clear differences between Democrats and Republicans

Democrats prioritize equality, hard-working families, the environment, and schools as legislative deadline passes.

OLYMPIA – Wednesday evening marked the legislative cut-off, where bills either get passed on to the other chamber or die a legislative death for the year. As the cut-off came and went, the differences in priorities between Democrats and Republicans became increasingly clear.

On Wednesday, the final bill Democrats in the House took up was the Equal Pay Opportunity Act sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), aiming to eliminate gender discrimination when it comes to compensation in the workplace. Despite the state’s 1943 Equal Pay law, women make just 79 cents to the man’s dollar, ranking Washington 33rd in the nation.

The bill, which was opposed by an astounding 43 Republicans in the House, would seek to lessen that gap by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees for discussing workplace compensation.

“The difference in priorities is clear,” said Jaxon Ravens, Chair of the Washington State Democrats. “Actions speak louder than words, and Republicans in Olympia have repeatedly shown that instead of investing in Washington, they side with special interests, big corporations, and extremists who want to take us backward when it comes to our basic rights.”

Other key policies passed by the House and opposed overwhelmingly by Republicans include:

  • The passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which requires health carriers to cover contraceptives and other women’s health services, better allowing women, not employers or special interests, to control health decisions.
  • Landmark legislation to support workers and economic growth by increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour incrementally over the next four years and provide sick and safe leave for workers who may fall ill, have a loved one get sick, or be victim of domestic violence.
  • The Washington Voting Rights Act, which ensures equitable and fair elections and protects all Washingtonians’ right to participate in local elections, regardless of where they live.
  • New laws to protect our environment by holding oil companies accountable through the implementation of new safeguards on oil train transport and banning of toxic chemicals flame retardants from furniture and children’s products.
  • Expanded investments in early learning through the Early Start Act, which expands the effective, high-quality programs and policies that have made Washington state a nationally recognized leader in early learning.

Additionally, Senate Republicans showed their misplaced priorities by advancing an agenda that aimed to roll back environmental protections, attack workers rights, and eliminate needed school funding despite an overwhelming budget deficit.

Policies passed by the Senate Republicans, despite objections from Democrats, included:

“Republicans in the Olympia are out of touch with the priorities of Washington residents,” said Ravens. “When hours are spent on the floor of the Senate debating if scientific consensus exists on climate change or when good policies like increasing the minimum wage and providing sick leave for workers don’t even get a public hearing in committee – we need a change in leadership.”