Sen. Jim Honeyford's Olympia Report - June 24, 2015 Edition

15th District Olympia Report
June 24, 2015


House Democrats walk away from capital budget, transportation negotiations

As the lead negotiator for the Senate on the capital budget, I have spent the past two months in meetings with my counterparts from the other side of the Capitol Rotunda in an effort to reach an agreement on how we budget for state buildings, school construction, public lands and parks.


Our transportation chair, Sen. Curtis King, has been in similar meetings trying to reconcile differences between the Senate and House transportation-revenue package proposals that would repair Washington’s crumbling roads and bridges, provide $8 billion in new transportation construction and place important reforms on how the state Department of Transportation manages highway projects.


Early last week the capital-budget and transportation discussions were making good progress, with negotiators reaching agreement on many issues.  


Then, at 2:12 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, Sen. King received a call from his House majority counterpart informing him she had been instructed by House Democrat leadership to walk away from the bargaining table.


At 4:15 p.m. that same day, I received a call from the House budget chair with nearly the identical message.


Frustrated that the Senate majority had not been bullied into approving an unnecessary capital-gains tax as part of reaching an agreement on a new state operating budget, House Democrat leaders decided to hold the capital and transportation discussions hostage in an attempt to use them as leverage.


On Friday, the governor announced the state-level capital-gains tax proposed by House Democrats was off the table; however, on Monday the House Democrats introduced two new budget bills– one billed as a “no-new-taxes budget” and one that is anything but a no-taxes plan. 


Since last Tuesday, when the capital-budget negotiations were abruptly called off, I have felt much like that washing-machine repairman in the TV commercial, who waits and waits for a call for help. Putting politics ahead of people and driving our state to the edge of a government shutdown, especially for new taxes that are completely unnecessary, is not what the people of Washington expect or deserve.  


State must respond to drought

The communities in my legislative district were included as part of the governor’s initial drought declaration back in March. A record low snowpack prompted the early announcement. Since then the drought has been expanded to include the entire state.

Sen. Honeyford


With drought-relief funding trapped in operating budget negotiations, I introduced Senate Bill 6125. Municipalities need to have the ability to access water. This legislation would allow communities who expect to receive less than 75 percent of their normal water supplies to be eligible for relief funding.


Before the close of the first special session in late May, the Senate unanimously passed SB 6125. To my surprise, the House of Representatives chose not to move the bill. When that session ended, the measure was returned to the Senate. Since that time, I’ve had many meetings with House members to educate them on the importance of providing a rapid response to the drought.


Today the Senate passed SB 6125 unanimously – again. I’m hopeful that this time the House will act quickly so that those who need water have the ability to receive it.


Those of us who live in the agricultural heart of Washington know all too well how important water is to our state’s economy. I just wish those folks who live on the west side of the Cascades understood that as well.


Time for a fact check

I’ve received a number of form letters via email in the past two weeks accusing me and my colleagues of trying to shut state government down. I wish the special-interest groups would provide their members with all the facts instead of cherry-picking the information to suit a particular argument.


The latest budget offer from the Senate fully funds state-employee collective bargaining agreements as negotiated by the governor.


And I’ve heard about the Senate Republican senators getting an 11 percent raise. Well, here’s the rest of the story: All legislators will receive the 11 percent raise as determined by the citizens serving on the independent salary commission. Guess who went before the commission to speak in favor of the increase? Sen. Sharon Nelson, the Senate Democrat leader. Who wrote a letter to the commission against the raise? Sen. John Braun, our Senate majority’s deputy leader.


The Senate proposal is truly a NO new-tax-budget that keeps government spending within the $3.2 billion increase in revenue available for this next fiscal biennium. Our budget also proposes a significant, immediate cut in the cost of college tuition. Currently the House Democrats are proposing an array of tax increases, including a new tax on bottled water (and calling it a “loophole” closure) with only a one-year freeze on college tuition. 


Shutting down government -- really? The Senate has passed one budget and all the bills necessary to implement that budget. We are prepared to do so again with our revised (and still no-new-taxes) budget. So far the House Democrats have only passed a plan without the revenue (taxes) to fund their higher level of spending budget. Also, our state budget must balance over four years. The Senate budget does so but the House does not. The question is, then: who is really risking a shutdown of government?


In closing…

I can assure you that the last thing my colleagues and I want is to jeopardize the livelihood of hard-working state employees. It upsets me that this political game of “chicken” has been fueled by half-truths and bullying. The bottom line is that the Senate majority budget proposal stands on its own – we don’t need to invent criticism to raise our position.


The pressure is on to reach a budget deal by June 30. While negotiations continue, I’m confident that the final budget will reflect the Senate majority principles of no-new-taxes, lower college tuition, significant investment in K-12 education and job creation.


I hope you’ll reach out to contact me. Your feedback is how I serve you better as your state Senator. I answer my email personally. You may also call my office at (360) 786-7684 to voice your opinion or make an appointment.


It remains my honor to serve you in the Washington State Senate.



 Jim signature

Jim Honeyford

State Senator, 15th District