Rep. Dick Muri's Legislative Update - March 21, 2016

State Representative 

Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom


University Place-Steilacoom-DuPont-Fircrest-Spanaway-West Tacoma-Graham-Lakewood-Joint Base Lewis McChord-McNeil Island-Anderson Island-Ketron Island

Legislative Update  |  2016 Session 

Rep. Dick Muri

Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

On March 10, 2016 the regular legislative session ended. It is frustrating that budget writers could not reach an agreement on the supplemental operating budget. This is even more disappointing given the strong bipartisan 2015-2017 operating, transportation, and capital budgets approved last year.

As expected, Gov. Inslee called an immediate special session. He then proceeded to veto 27 of 37 Republican and Democratic sponsored Senate bills on his desk because the supplemental operating budget had not been passed by the final day of session. It was surprising to see him veto measures that would: help higher education students with disabilities; promote economic development; evaluate factors for out-of-pocket costs for patients; and authorize the growing of industrial hemp. The governor even vetoed pro-environment legislation.

Every piece of legislation means something to someone or some group. People worked very hard to get these bills passed. In the end, the governor's vetoes hurt everyday Washingtonians and it's very unfortunate.

Read more about vetoed bills.


Success highlights for 2016

Despite the need for a special session and actions by the governor, there were several accomplishments during the 2016 session. For example, state lawmakers: 


What is a Supplemental operating budget?

Supplemental budgets should propose minor modifications for unanticipated financial needs of programs, agencies, or to help with emergencies. They correct technical errors in appropriations, and pay for events like the wildfires that took place in 2015 - costs we could not anticipate when we wrote the original budget last year. They are intended to be a midcourse adjustment to the two-year state spending plan. 

This year, House majority proposed a budget that went beyond the traditional scope of a supplemental operating budget. For example, they proposed: raising taxes by $120 million; using the budget stabilization account for non-emergencies; not accounting for $487 million dedicated for K-3 class-size reduction; and ignoring the important four-year budget outlook.   

What is the Budget Stabilization Account?

Also known as the “rainy day fund,” the budget stabilization account was approved by the voters in 2007. It grows as the state experiences high revenue increases during good economic times. These funds are to be used primarily for emergencies, and are our state’s safety net in the event of an economic downturn.

While $190 million was proposed for wildfire reimbursement spending, the remaining expenditures, $280 million, would be for new policies. Other states are already experiencing recession-like economic activity. Rather than spend every dime we have now, we need to be careful so critical state services are not put at risk in future years.

More on the supplemental operating budget.
More on the budget stabilization account.

In the coming days

In order to pass a supplemental operating budget, the House, Senate, and Governor must all approve the same document. There is no reason we cannot reach an agreement.

In fact, the Senate recently released a new proposal in the hopes of moving us closer to a compromise. House Democrats and Senate Republicans are only about $300 million apart on supplemental operating budget negotiations. While that may sound like a lot, it's small when compared to the overall two-year $38 billion state operating budget.

Both sides are meeting to discuss how to pay for fire suppression efforts and damage from last summer's wildfires and are making progress towards an agreement on the health care and education components. There's a strong possibility members of the House and Senate could be called back to the Capitol to vote on a supplemental operating budget very soon. Let's hope so!

Save Charter Schools

Charter Schools saved

Charter Schools provide options for different learning styles and challenges. They narrow the opportunity gap, and strengthen our entire education system.

One of the biggest successes of the 2016 session was the approval of Senate Bill 6194. This bill reestablishes public charter schools in our state, keeping them open, free to the public and operating separately from the public school system. Funding will be provided by the Washington Opportunity Pathways account, which also funds other programs like Early Childhood Education and the Washington state work study. I'm pleased we were able to pass this bill and bring hope to the 1,100 students currently attending charter schools.

The Senate Bill 6194 was delivered to the Governor and awaits his signature.


Increasing state trooper pay

The number of state troopers has fallen from 690 to 580 in recent years partially because of retirements, but also because we're losing them to other law enforcement agencies that can offer better pay. That's why I was glad to see broad, bipartisan support for House Bill 2872, which provides another 5 percent increase in pay for our state troopers for a total 15 percent bump over two years. It's expensive to train new troopers. Money spent on efforts to retain the troopers we currently have actually saves the state money. This bill was delivered to the Governor and awaits his signature.


Status on specific pieces of legislation

Many of you have contacted me with questions about specific pieces of legislation.  You can click here if you want to view a list of dead/alive bills. This list is not necessarily indicative of bills I support or oppose; it's just a list of bills that have garnered attention in the media, from constituents back home or from entities here in Olympia.

Rep. Dick Muri speaks on the house floor

Questions, comments or suggestions?

Regardless of whether or not we are in session, I work for you throughout the entire year. Please contact my office in Olympia any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government and legislation. You'll find my contact information below.

Thank you for reading my legislative update. It is an honor to serve you in the state House.