The Current | July 17, 2015

Sine Die • July 17, 2015 

The Current

Letter from Leadership 

Dear Friend: 

After 176 days, the 2015 legislative session finally came to a close on July 10. With the drop of the gavel that afternoon, the Legislature finished its official business. Barring any unforeseen emergencies, state lawmakers won't convene again until the second Monday in January.

While no one can defend the amount of time it took to finalize the 2015-17 operating and capital budgets, the end products reflect collaborative, bipartisan compromises. More importantly, they represent important wins for Washingtonians and communities across our state. You can find more details below.

Did everyone get what they wanted this year? No, but that's how it should be when one chamber is controlled by Republicans and the other by Democrats. In the end, 365 pieces of bipartisan legislation were signed into law -- demonstrating how Olympia is much different than Washington, D.C. 

Thank you

You probably don't hear this very often from elected officials: Thank you. First, you elected us to do this job and it's an honor to serve our communities. Secondly, you send us your hard-earned tax dollars and then trust us to spend it wisely. Ensuring fiscally responsible, sustainable state budgets and establishing trust in state government will continue to be House Republican priorities.

Staying in touch, updated on legislative issues

While interim has officially begun, please remember we are your state representatives year-round. We are here to listen, answer your questions and help you navigate state government. Please don't ever hesitate to contact us

While this e-newsletter will be dormant until January, you can stay updated on legislative issues through our weekday complilation of news stories in the Capitol Buzz. You can also follow us on social media (see links to the right).

In your service,

Rep. Dan Kristiansen
House Republican Leader
39th District

Dr. Floyd

Remembering Dr. Elson Floyd

We are saddened by the passing of Dr. Elson Floyd. He was a visionary leader whose accomplishments transcended academia. Dr. Floyd was loved and admired at the Capitol and across our state. We will miss him dearly.

Some of us reflected on our experiences with Dr. Floyd recently. You can find these here

Freshmen perspectives

Freshmen perspectives 

Our freshmen state representatives took time to reflect on their first legislative session. They discussed why they ran for office, their favorite thing about being a state lawmaker and how you can become involved in the legislative process. You can watch the video here.  


Operating budget

When the 2015 legislative session began, the governor and Democrats were set on raising taxes by nearly $1.5 billion. They introduced proposals that would have created a new capital gains income tax, established a new cap-and-trade scheme and increased taxes on certain businesses -- to name a few.

We are happy to report all of these proposals were defeated. Since the end of last year, we have said new tax increases should be the last resort. When the May revenue forecast revealed our state would have an additional $415 million in tax collections, the call for new tax increases should have stopped. Unfortuantely, they didn't. In fact, the governor and Democrats would not back down from their positions for the better part of two special sessions. When they finally did, budget negotiations progressed as you might expect.   

In the end, common sense prevailed and major, broad-based tax increases were averted. This is a win for Washingtonians. We are proud to have fought off these tax increases this year, but we know the debate will continue next year.

Here are some highlights of the 2015-17 operating budget:

  • Spends about $38.2 billion. 
  • Satisfies the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement.
  • Invests about $1.3 billion in K-12 basic education, including expanding access to full-day kindergarten and lowering K-3 class sizes. 
  • Funds voter-approved cost-of-living raises for teachers.
  • Reduces tuition at our state’s public four-year colleges and universities, and community and technical colleges.
  • Makes a major investment in early learning.
  • Funds collective bargaining agreements for state employees.
  • Addresses court-mandated changes in our state’s mental health system.
  • Increases funding for state parks.
  • Closes some tax incentives, while extending others.  

Transportation budget

The 2015-17 transportation budget passed at the end of the first special session. House Bill 1299, which passed the House 74-20, appropriated $3.8 billion for capital projects, $2.3 billion for operating programs and $1.5 billion in debt service payments -- for a total of $7.6 billion.


Transportation tax package  

One of the last issues to be considered during the third special session was a transportation tax package. The measures for the Connecting Washington Transportation Plan -- Senate Bill 5987 (revenue), Senate Bill 5988 (spending) and Senate Bill 5989 (bonds) -- were passed and signed into law.

The plan will raise the state gas tax by 11.9 cents -- 7 cents in August and 4.9 cents in July 2016. It also increased passenger vehicle registration weight fees starting July 1. These taxes and fees will generate $11.5 billion in new revenue, and $5.3 billion in bond authorizations, to fund 16 years of projects. The major projects include: the SR 520 Bridge west side; I-395 North Spokane; I-405 corridor widening; SR 509/SR 167; I-90 Snoqualmie to Easton; and I-5 corridor for JBLM. The plan also includes more than 100 smaller road projects throughout the state. 

This was a tough issue for us, as were the transportation tax packages in 2003 (5 cents) and 2005 (9.5 cents). Like the other three legislative caucuses, we had members vote for and against the plan. Most House Republicans voted "no" because it wasn't a good deal for their districts and they're worried about constituents having to pay more at the pump. It's also hard to overlook all of the failures of WSDOT since the last package. 

Some House Republicans voted "yes" because they felt it was good for their communities and constituents. They also believed the transportation reforms, while they could have been stronger, were a step in the right direction to ensure more accountability at WSDOT and with state gas-tax dollars.  

You can learn more about the transportation tax package, budget and reforms in this document we created for newspaper editorial boards.


Capital budget

The 2015-17 capital budget, also called the construction budget, passed in the third special session. It spends a total of $3.7 billion -- with $2.2 billion paid through general obligation bonds and $1.5 billion spent using other funding sources, including certificates of participation, dedicated accounts, trust revenue and federal funds.

Our goal for the capital budget this year was to address state priorities within existing bond capacity. In the end, we reached bipartisan agreements on: K-12 and higher education school construction; increasing mental health bed capacity; mitigation for the current drought; housing for vulnerable individuals and veterans; and other important community projects.

House Bill 1115 (budget bill) passed the House on a 96-2 vote, and House Bill 1166 (bond bill) passed by the same margin. For a list of capital budget projects broken down by legislative districts, click here.  


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