Unfinished business

2017 legislative sessions • August 9, 2017 

The Current -- 2017 legislative session

Letter from Leadership 

The Current 2017-18

Dear Friend:  

After a 105-day regular session and three special sessions, state lawmakers went home on July 20. Unfortunately, the Legislature still has important unfinished business -- including a comprehensive, long-term Hirst solution and a capital budget. Both issues are important to us and we remain hopeful that resolutions can be found in the upcoming weeks. 

Finding a Hirst solution  

Republicans made it a priority on day one of the legislative session to find a Hirst solution. This problem is adversely affecting families, property values, counties, rural communities, and various sectors of our economy.

The Senate passed bipartisan Senate Bill 5239 four times. Unfortunately, House Democrats refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.

In an effort to break the impasse, House Republican David Taylor joined House Democrat Brian Blake in introducing a bipartisan striking amendment to Senate Bill 5239 on June 30. If this legislation had been allowed to be voted on, I believe it would have passed the House and Senate. House Democrats also prevented this solution from being voted on.

Republicans continued to negotiate in good faith and in one more attempt to find a bipartisan compromise put another solution on the table July 14. This, too, was rejected by House Democrats. In fact, House Democrats failed to bring any bill to the floor that would have helped the families negatively affected by the Hirst decision. This is disappointing.  

We have been reaching out to constituents, reporters, editorial boards and other stakeholders to share why this issue is important and worth fighting for until it is resolved. Reps. Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven explain the importance of finding a Hirst solution in this op-ed that appeared in The Bellingham Herald today. I encourage you to read and share it.

Bipartisan accomplishments

Despite unfinished business and overtime, there were major accomplishments in the Legislature this year. In fact, there have been several bipartisan successes since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2013.

In this op-ed in The Seattle Times on July 29, former Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom highlights some of the legislative successes the last five years. He also concludes: "As frustrating as it might be for some, divided state government slows the process down and forces decision-makers to more thoroughly explore wise public policy options. This is good for Washington." 

Here are a few major accomplishments this year: 

  • An operating budget that will invest an additional $7.3 billion in K-12 education and reforms in the next four years, and protect our state's most vulnerable. You might find this budget brief informative.
  • A McCleary solution that will: fully fund basic education; create equity for students, teachers and taxpayers; promote local control; and address the state Supreme Court's rulings through reforms. You can learn more in this summary
  • A school siting bill that will allow school districts to build schools outside of urban growth boundaries and save money.
  • A measure that will change high school assessment and graduation requirements, and enable many students to graduate on time.

You can find more legislative highlights, in addition to a few disappointments, here.

The interim

While the legislative sessions may be done for the year, we continue to be your state representatives year-round. We are here to listen, share information and help you navigate state government. Please don't ever hesitate to contact us.

You can also follow us on social media (see upper right-hand corner for links) and sign up for the Capitol Buzz

Enjoy the rest of your summer. We'll be back in touch if there are any new developments on the Hirst issue and capital budget.

In your service,

Rep. Dan Kristiansen
House Republican Leader
39th District

2017-19 operating budget

The 2017-19 operating budget appropriates almost $43.7 billion from the near general fund plus opportunity pathway accounts, and $88.3 billion in total funds. This represents a $5.2 billion, or 13 percent, increase over the previous two-year budget cycle.

Here is a breakdown of spending:

  • $22 billion for K-12 education. More than 50 percent of the operating budget is now dedicated to K-12 education -- the highest percentage since the early 1980s.
  • $14 billion for Department of Social and Health Services and other human services.
  • $3.8 billion for higher education.
  • $3.9 billion for other agencies and programs.

This operating budget outlook provides for more specifics on state spending and shows $1.6 billion in total reserves by the end of the 2019-21 budget cycle. You can also learn more from this summary and agency details document.  

McCleary solution

A bipartisan, eight-member workgroup was put together this legislative session to find a McCleary solution. Our caucus was represented by Reps. David Taylor and Paul Harris.

The workgroup met for months, vetted ideas, traded proposals, and eventually put forward a comprehensive plan that was passed and signed into law. House Bill 2242 will:

  • Maintain the protypical school model, but express the funding as a per pupil model.
  • Increase allocations for state-funded compensation for basic education staff.
  • Eliminate the Certificated Instructional Staff salary grid. Salary allocations for all three staff types will be based on an average market rate salary that is localized to account for regional differences in cost of living.
  • Increase funding for several categorical programs.
  • Revise local levy policy allowing school districts to levy and "enrichment levy" capped at the lesser of $2,500 per pupil or $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value.
  • Provide Local Effort Assistance to property-poor districts that cannot reach $1,500 per pupil at a levy of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value.
  • Increase the state property tax to a flat rate of $2.70 per $1,000 assessed value and, beginning in 2022, the tax rate will be subject to the 1 percent growth limit. This will generate more than $4 billion in new revenue over the next four years.
  • Place all school employees in a statewide school employee health benefit program.
  • Implement a number of programmatic and accounting reforms.

For a breakdown of how school districts will benefit from these new education investments, click here

Revenue changes

As operating budget and McCleary negotiations progressed, it was determined that some new revenue would be needed. These agreements, and the decision to raise certain taxes, reflect a closely divided Legislature and the need to make historic new investments in K-12 education. 

House Bill 2163 was the primary revenue legislation. It will:  

  • Implement an online sales tax ($1.036 billion).
  • Repeal the sales and use tax exemption for bottled water ($117 million).
  • Narrow the use exemption for extract fuel ($49 million).
  • Create an economic nexus for business and occupation tax on retailing ($35 million).

The dollar amounts above are for a four-year period.

Gov. Inslee vetoes tax preference for manufacturing

The Legislature also passed nearly $100 million in revenue decreases over a four-year period. The largest and most important proposal would have reduced the business and occupation tax manufacturing rate from .484 to .2904 (the current rate for Boeing). This would have stimulated economic activity and preserved and created jobs across our state. Unfortunately, Gov. Inslee vetoed this section of the bill

This was disappointing. Aside from a breach of trust, the governor's veto hurts a struggling sector of our economy and rural communities. You can read the statement three of our members sent out here. They also sent the governor a letter on July 6 asking him not to do it.       



Don't let anyone tell you that our Legislature is like Congress. It's simply not true. A vast majority of bills pass the House and Senate with strong bipartisan, if not unanimous, support.

This picture of House Republican Paul Harris and three House Democrats, following the passage of a high school assessment and graduation requirement bill, captures the friendships, passion and shared priorities of state lawmakers. This is one of many bipartisan accomplishments of the 2017 legislative sessions.

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