OLYMPIA…Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler today repeated the call to lawmakers in Olympia to end their special session by May 15. Washington lawmakers are scheduled to begin an overtime session Wednesday, but it could run 30 days – or even longer.
Schoesler added that lawmakers should see a mid-May deadline for school districts to plan their budgets as reason to finish by May 15.
“Now that Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to continue budget negotiations, lawmakers need to be responsive to a critical May 15 deadline for the state’s school districts,” Schoesler said.
“Delay is bad enough. School districts face a budget-planning deadline of May 15, and without a specific appropriation, they must send out pink slips to teachers and other employees. They also can’t start hiring the new teachers both chambers have agreed to fund. We are dramatically increasing education funding this year, and these delays put schools, teachers and important programs in limbo.”
Schoesler observed that members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus are on the job Monday in Olympia even though the Legislature is not in session. “Our committee chairs are planning work sessions and committee hearings to keep momentum going with the goal of finishing budget negotiations before the May 15 deadline,” Schoesler said.
Under the constitution, special sessions can last as long as 30 days. But if they fail to finish their work in the allotted time, they could be forced to remain longer. If lawmakers fail to pass a budget by July 1, inaction will force a shutdown of state government.
Schoesler noted that the Senate has passed all the bills necessary to implement a new state operating budget. The Senate proposal does not raise taxes. The House, under control of the House Democratic Caucus, has proposed a budget that would require a $1.5 billion tax increase. But the House has balked at passing a bill to raise taxes, leaving their proposal unbalanced and making it impossible for budget negotiators for both sides to begin talks from an even position.
The situation has been complicated by Gov. Inslee’s declaration that he will not sign a budget that does not contain a major tax increase. “Governor Inslee has given the Legislature an ultimatum to pass the largest tax increase in state history or we don’t get a budget deal,” said Schoesler, “This threat of a D.C.-style government shutdown doesn’t belong in this Washington.”
Majority leader: ‘Special session needs to end by May 15’
OLYMPIA… Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, today marked the end of the Legislature’s regular session with a long list of major legislation passed by the Senate including a no-new-taxes budget, bipartisan transportation package, college-tuition cuts, public-safety measures, addressed critical mental health issues and a capital budget that builds 2,100 classrooms to lower class size from kindergarten through third grade.
“The Senate delivered on every major issue this session,” said Schoesler, “It’s a ‘clean sweep’ on keeping our promise to prioritize education, bring tax relief to middle-class families and live within our means with $3 billion in added revenue.”
Schoesler added the Senate had done its job and passed all the bills necessary to implement a new state operating budget.
“We’re disappointed in the delay tactics by House Democrats who have yet to pass a complete operating budget, or act on a transportation package,” said Schoesler. “We can’t negotiate with ‘phantom’ money and the House Democrats have yet to pass $1.5 billion in added taxes to cover their spending wish list. In addition, we have a broken transportation system that desperately needs reforms and major improvements to our roads and bridges – and still, no action from the House majority.”
Now that Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to continue budget negotiations, Schoesler said lawmakers need to be responsive to a critical May 15 deadline for the state’s school districts.
“Delay is bad enough,” said Schoesler. “School districts face a budget-planning deadline of May 15, and without a specific appropriation, they must send out pink slips to teachers and other employees. They also can’t start hiring the new teachers both chambers have agreed to fund. We’re hugely increasing education funding and these delays put schools, teachers and important programs in limbo.”
Schoesler added that members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus would be back in Olympia Monday. “Our committee chairs are planning work sessions and committee hearings to keep momentum going with the goal of finishing budget negotiations before the May 15 deadline,” Schoesler said.
Since the Senate has passed a complete operating budget and bipartisan transportation package, Schoesler said the governor’s “ultimatum on raising taxes” has not been helpful to budget-negotiation efforts. “Governor Inslee has given the Legislature an ultimatum to pass the largest tax increase in state history or we don’t get a budget deal. This threat of a D.C. style government shutdown doesn’t belong in this Washington,” said Schoesler.
Schoesler noted the Senate’s many accomplishments on behalf of families across Washington, as part of or in addition to its viable operating budget and bipartisan transportation package, including:
Full funding of K-12 education – 47 percent of the Senate budget is dedicated to basic education. As a percentage of the budget, it hasn’t been that high since Gov. John Spellman was in office (1981-85). The Senate budget adds $1.3 billion for K-12 schools, addressing the 2012 McCleary court decision and providing teacher cost-of-living pay raises.
First tuition reduction in over 40 years – The Senate budget, coupled with its College Affordability Program legislation (Senate Bill 5954), would cut college tuition at four-year institutions by an average of 25 percent, helping 200,000 students and saving families over $300 million through lower college costs.
A capital budget that builds 2,100 classrooms – This complements the Senate operating-budget priority on lowering class sizes for K-3 grades (the House capital budget does not).
Tougher drunken-driving law – 4th DUI in 10 years is now charged as a felony, meaning state prison instead of county jail.
Energy and carbon reduction plan – The Senate led the way on clean energy with passage of Senate Bill 5735, a practical carbon-reduction plan. This measure does not require the large and damaging tax increases favored by the governor. No action was taken in the House.
Oil-train safety – Senate Bill 5057 provides equipment and advance notification to emergency agencies.
Reconciled medical marijuana system with recreational market – Senate Bill 5052 will protect patients and add safeguards for kids.
Telemedicine – Senate Bill 5175 expands use of interactive technology to give rural areas more access to health care.
Mental health – Senate Bill 5269, known as ‘Joel’s Law’ to give families more options to protect loved ones dealing with mental illness.
Senior citizen property-tax exemption – Senate Bill 5186 helps 100,000 low-income seniors stay in their homes.
Government accountability – One of the country’s most ambitious state-government quality-assurance agendas passed with bipartisan support. SB 5737 gives state government the accountability tools it needs to improve quality and measure savings.
“We’re at the table and ready to negotiate a pro-education, no-new-taxes budget that allows us to honor our commitment to the taxpayers and school districts of this state,” Schoesler said.
“School districts depend so much on the Legislature to complete their work on time so that we can complete our work. Whether it’s hiring teachers to reduce class size, adding more sections of full-day kindergarten, or purchasing busses, until the Legislature approves a budget, we are unable to move forward with our planning and decision-making. If the budget is delayed too much, this has the potential to negatively impact our students.”
~ Dave Bond, Superintendent, Kennewick School District
“A delayed final budget negatively impacts every facet of our district’s operation, including recruitment and hiring, program development, training, purchase of new curriculum and materials and expanding community partnerships.”
~ Frank Hewins, Superintendent, Franklin Pierce School District
“School districts are extremely dependent upon the legislature completing the budget process as expeditiously as possible for a number of very important reasons. The necessity of determining the funding available for staffing is primary. Washington competes regionally and or nationally for qualified teachers. We are currently experiencing high rates of requirements and delays in the budget process that place our state at a great disadvantage. Many budget items once determined by the legislature have additional costs locally without knowing the state budget parameters for COLAs or additional requirements like assessments, and unforeseen costs, can be a significant unplanned cost in the local district budget. Instructional materials purchases and technology upgrades, which have critical timelines during the summer months, often wait and are not in place if the budget process at the state level is extended. In order to plan with clear intention and to align our work with the goals of the state and our local school board having the state budget in place on time is critical.”
~ Tim Yeomans, Superintendent, Puyallup School District
OLYMPIA… Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released this statement in reaction to the federal indictment of state Auditor Troy Kelley.
“The damage has been done and it’s time for Troy Kelley to resign immediately. There is nothing he can do to restore public trust given his evasion and silence on these serious allegations. We have grave concerns the office of the auditor can be effective as the state’s top watchdog with Troy Kelley as its leader. Once public trust is damaged, it is very difficult to restore. The people of Washington expect the highest standards of transparency from the auditor’s office and those standards have not been met.”
Students say why they support the Senate Majority’s plan to reduce tuition.
OLYMPIA…As the 2015 legislative session nears the end of its 105 day limit, Senate Majority Coalition budget negotiators are reaching across the aisle and Rotunda to end on time and on budget. The Senate has passed a complete budget. The House has passed a $39 billion spending plan. This is an important difference between the chambers that must be reconciled before the April 26 deadline.
“We are doing everything we can to work with our House counterparts,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, “Our priorities are very similar but we have a different approach that we are working together to address. The people of Washington should know that the Senate is doing everything we can to ensure we adjourn on time and on budget with no new taxes.”
Schoesler added the Senate majority’s budget is balanced over 4 years and includes no new taxes. “We believe the $3 billion of additional projected revenue coming to the state is enough to fully fund schools, prioritize higher education and preserve essential services,” Schoesler said. The House budget increases spending by 15 percent and includes a $1.5 billion tax increase that has yet to be approved by that chamber.
Both budgets spend nearly identical amounts of marijuana revenue — $295 million in the Senate plan and $270 million in the House plan.
“We need to have open and honest discussions if we are going to find a compromise that works for the state of Washington,” said Sen. John Braun, vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, “I believe that people in our state expect us to meet our constitutional deadline of 105 days to finish the budget. Our state’s budget is growing at over 8 percent without a tax increase, and that is more than sufficient to fund the real priorities of state government.”
OLYMPIA… Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released this statement in advance of passage of a 2015-17 operating budget by members of the state Senate:
“We have the votes to pass a no-new-taxes budget that fully funds K-12 education and offers college students and their families the first tuition cut in at least a generation.
“It’s time to start focusing on solutions that get results. The Senate budget represents a major shift in priorities and directs new spending toward education at a level not seen in 30 years. We ask the Senate minority Democrats to join us in making the funding solution to K-12 and teacher compensation a reality.
“The people want us to reduce class size, so we’re building 2,200 more classrooms for kindergarten through third grade. Teachers deserve to know they’re valued, so we’re giving them a long overdue cost of living adjustment. Families and students want real relief from skyrocketing tuition costs, so we’re cutting the cost of tuition by 25 percent. Rather than just put more money into State Need Grants, we decided the best form of financial aid is to reduce the need and help more students realize their college dreams – debt free.
“Our Senate majority made a promise to live within our means and state revenue is up by $3 billion. Families are experiencing the double squeeze of higher energy and college costs. We’re still in a fragile economic recovery with high unemployment in many parts of the state. Now is not the time to raise taxes on families and employers.
“An added $3 billion is plenty to meet the challenges we face in education and mental health. We’re ready to negotiate a pro-education, no-new-taxes budget that allows us to finish this legislative session on time.”
Today the Majority Coalition Caucus unveiled the official Majority Leader portrait in a ceremony to honor the leadership of former Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue.
Current MCC Majority Leader Mark Schoesler had this to say:
“It seems like just yesterday Senator Tom and I put aside our past differences to bring the Majority Coalition Caucus together to successfully focus on jobs, education and sustainable budgets. Today we honored him for his service and wish him the best.”