Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It wasn't an easy road, but after a special session in December, the 60-day regular session and another 31 days in special session, the Legislature finally broke through the one-party control in Olympia to close a $1 billion budget gap and adopt much-needed government reforms. After the bipartisan coalition in the Senate formed a philosophical majority, Republicans were brought to the negotiating table for the first time in many years and were instrumental in bringing forth common-sense solutions at each and every meeting. As a result, the budget includes many of our priorities of funding education, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and public safety. The final budget also does not include a sales tax increase, as proposed by the governor and Democrats, and it doesn't delay payments to schools or eliminate levy funds to rural school districts, as proposed in the House and Senate Democratic budgets.
While the final budget represents a decent compromise between different philosophical view points, it does have some major flaws. My main concern is that it only leaves $319 million in reserves. Of this, $238 million is one-time money that comes as a result of an accounting change. This is worrisome given the volatility of tax collections. Last year, the governor signed a budget with about $620 million in reserves and just a day or two later (during the next revenue forecast) almost all of that was wiped out. I believe we need more money in reserves to avoid the possibility of another special session in the future.
I'm also concerned that it continues to keep programs like general assistance unemployment (GAU) on “life-support” when the state can no longer afford them, and when there are similar programs at the federal level to fill the need of many currently enrolled in GAU.
And, while the reforms that were tied to the budget will ultimately place Washington on firmer fiscal ground moving forward, I believe they didn't go far enough in changing how Olympia does business. In other words, there are those who will now say that the reform game is over. The next piece of the puzzle (to them) will be tax increases the next time we face a revenue shortage.
For these reasons, I could not support the budget in its final form.
That being said, the Legislature did adopt important reforms that will offer long-term benefits to taxpayers and public employees. I voted in support of each of the following:
• Senate Bill 6378: Public employees hired as of May 2013 will receive a smaller monthly benefit if they choose to retire early. This will save public employers and taxpayers around $1.3 billion over the next 25 years.
• Senate Bill 6636: This measure will require operating budgets to balance across four years instead of the current two-year requirement. This means that any operating budget being adopted by the Legislature must balance in the current two-year budget cycle – and also in the following two-year cycle. Washington is the first state to enact this important measure. Requiring state lawmakers to take into account the long-term cost of the policies they are enacting will help prevent unsustainable budgets in the future.
• Senate Bill 5940: This bill is perhaps one of the most contentious and most misunderstood bills of the session. Currently many public-school teachers and classified staff must purchase their health-care insurance from a single carrier, through their school district. That lack of choice is a factor in why the premiums for family-level coverage have become unaffordable for some. SB 5940 will require districts to: disclose expenses, reserves, fees, premium costs and so on; allow open contracting; provide greater equity between the cost of coverage for an individual and the cost of family coverage; and give employees access to high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts. Districts that don't comply with these standards by December 2015 would be forced to join the insurance pool to which general-government employees have belonged for many years.
• House Bill 2834: This bill will provide cost savings to local governments by eliminating some of their duplicative and unnecessary reporting requirements. It also requires the state to further identify reports, programs and mandates that can be eliminated in order to save money for city and county governments.
Let's get Washington working again!
If we are going to get people back to work, state government needs to become more collaborative and less punitive when working with job providers. We must reduce burdensome and costly regulations on employers, and ensure consistency and predictability so they have the confidence to hire new employees and retain those currently employed. The following job-creation measures are a few of the workable solutions we supported to provide momentum for economic recovery and enhanced revenue growth f
or Washington. Unfortunately the majority party failed to consider them.
• Suspend GMA requirements in counties with significant and persistent unemployment (House Bill 1592) – Alleviate the cost and bureaucracy of controlling growth when none is occurring and when those regulations stand in the way of badly needed economic development.
• Require permit decisions in 90 days (House Bill 1961) – Require agencies to make permit decisions in 90 days or it is granted. This would add certainty and eliminate unnecessary delays in permit decisions in order to significantly stimulate economic activity. Let's free up those who are ready to put people to work.
• Moratorium on rulemaking (House Bill 1156) – We support the governor's decision to suspend unnecessary rulemaking and would extend the moratorium for three years or until state revenue growth shows evidence of economic recovery.
• Reclassify hydropower as renewable energy (House Bill 1125) – When we sell our inexpensive hydro power to California, it qualifies as renewable. In Washington it does not. Let's recapture our state's competitive advantage of offering abundant, affordable clean energy for manufacturers and consumers.
Redistricting changes the 15th District
Every 10 years following the Census, the bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission convenes to redraw the state's legislative and congressional district lines. The process ensures all Washington citizens are fairly represented. The result for the 15th Legislative District is dramatic to say the least. Beginning in January 2013, Klickitat and Skamania counties will be part of the 14th Legislative District. I want to express to those of you living in those counties my sincere appreciation and pride of representing such a unique region of our state that has overcome many challenges.
While not necessary, it's nice to have your hard work recognized…
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of receiving the 2011 Cornerstone Award from the Association of Washington Businesses. That's AWB Vice President of government affairs, Gary Chandler, presenting the award to me in front of the state Capitol. To read more about the award and the AWB, click here.
Last week, I received the Citizen of the Year Award from the Washington Realtors. Here's what they said in their online publication:
Congratulations to DAVE TAYLOR, WA REALTOR Citizen of the Year!!
Over the past year Rep. Taylor has continued to work to improve the economic climate in Washington State. Rep. Taylor has introduced several regulatory reform bills aimed at streamlining the permit process for businesses and improving economic development opportunities in communities across the state.
I was also featured in an online article recently by the Freedom Foundation titled “Environment Committee member calls DOE report 'garbage'”…you can read more about that by clicking here, but here's a small excerpt:
The Washington State Department of Ecology's newly released climate change strategy, according to at least one outspoken critic, amounts to little more than a thinly veiled attempt to hinder development at a time when the state needs to be doing everything possible to promote private-sector business and jobs.
“This is yet another obstacle in the way of economic development,” said Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee), who serves on the House Environmental Committee. “The last thing we need right now is legislation that addresses something that isn't a problem in the first place by using junk science and has the effect of depressing our economy.”
Join me for our 15th District Tele-Town Hall
Please join Rep. Bruce Chandler and me for our 15th District Tele-Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10. We have done a few of these before and they have proven to be a great way to stay in touch with our constituents and to share information. We'll be able to talk a little more in depth about the legislative sessions as well as hear feedback and questions from you on important issues. To participate in the community conversation, call toll-free 1-877-229-8493 and enter pin #15540. I hope you can join us!
Because of election year restrictions, this will be one of my last e-newsletter of the year. It has been my pleasure to keep you updated on what's been going on in Olympia and I hope you have found my e-newsletters informative and timely. I certainly don't want to clutter your inbox, but I do feel it is my duty as your elected official to keep you informed as much as possible.
Thanks again for the honor and privilege of serving you in the Legislature. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or concerns about state issues or if you need help wading through the bureaucracy of state government.