Archive for Budget

Revenue forecast shows moderate increase as lawmakers craft budget

By | February 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Budget writers will have an additional $140 million to work with as they develop the state’s next two-year budget, according to figures released Friday by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Washington is seeing strong job growth — especially in Seattle — and consumers are saving money from lower gas prices, said the state’s chief economist Steve Lerch. However, the state has collected slightly less revenue from legal marijuana than forecasted. The slowdown at the ports is also having an economic impact, although so far it is only affecting volume and not dollars, Lerch said.

The budget for the 2015-2017 cycle remains at about $37 billion, leaving legislators with a $2 billion dollar shortfall as they attempt to meet education funding mandates.

Rep. Ross Hunter, the lead Democratic budget writer in the House, said the updated figures make a “difficult problem slightly less difficult.” The House is expected to release its budget proposal in mid-to-late March.

The forecast also includes an additional $134 million for the current budget cycle, raising total collections to $274 million through 2017.

Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said the additional revenue should “reduce the pressure on the perennial call for more taxes.” The Senate will release its own version of the budget after the House. Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget was announced in December.

Watch the revenue forecast at this link.

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Republicans say Inslee proposals would risk economy

By | January 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Screen shot of Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) delivering the Republican perspective on Jan. 13, 2015.

Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and Republicans in the Senate and House rebutted major points in Gov. Jay Inslee‘s State of the State address, saying his proposed policies would damage economic growth and would be unnecessary.

“His proposals do, indeed, have a cost. They would increase the cost of our food, our utility bills, and our fuel to get to and from work. And they would hit hard our rural communities,” said Smith, in the remarks delivered in the Republican response to the State of the State.

“Why then, would you put on the table any proposal that has in its crosshairs the very sector of our economy most crucial to our economic recovery and vitality?” she said.

She also said that there has been bipartisan support for such environmental policies as cleaning up waterways and toxic sites, and that she personally is committed to developing renewable energy, but that “there is room for on this issue for reasonable debate.”

“The governor says we need to create a new fuel mandate and new taxes to demonstrate leadership. But his proposals will have almost zero impact on the global challenges we are facing,” Smith said.

“We are absolutely willing to consider pollution-reducing ideas that will work, and that won’t place such a terrible burden on the hard-working people of Washington state, particularly those in the middle class, and those who are struggling,” she said.

Smith also said that the state can fund education through a combination of changes in policy and an additional $3 billion in revenue than originally forecast.

“If we are thoughtful and careful about how we spend your tax dollars, and prioritize, we can balance our state budget without tax increases,” Smith said.

“[W]e must rectify the failure of the past three decades, where leadership in Olympia has allowed non-education spending to dramatically outpace education spending. Simply put: education has not been the top priority. Funding education first would change that,” she said.

Smith joined fellow Republicans representatives Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) and Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) and senators Ann Rivers (R-La Center), Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) to rebut other parts of the governor’s address, and to answer questions from the media.

(more…)

Categories: Budget, Education, Republicans

Live from the Capitol: TVW’s opening day show starts 10 a.m. Monday

By | January 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s 2015 session begins Monday, Jan. 12. Opening ceremonies start at noon, but tune in to TVW early to catch exclusive interviews with lawmakers, who will discuss key issues for the coming months.

Starting at 10 a.m., The Impact’s Anita Kissee will host the live show from the Capitol rotunda. Gov. Jay Inslee will stop by to talk about his budget proposal and more.

Guests include House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Sharon Nelson, Mark Schoesler, Andy Billig, Linda Evans Parlette and Representatives Dan Kristiansen, Pat Sullivan, Joel Kretz and Eric Pettigrew.

Hear about key issues including education, transportation and mental health from Senators Jeannie Darneille, Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Steve Litzow, Rosemary McAuliffe, John McCoy and Steve O’Ban, plus Representatives Judy Clibborn, Hans Dunshee, Richard DeBolt, Cary Condotta and Sharon Wylie.

We’ll also get insight about the session from Capitol reporters Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review and Jordan Schrader from The News Tribune.

TVW will carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of opening ceremonies beginning at noon.

Stay tuned to TVW throughout the session for coverage of the state Legislature. Starting opening day of session, Legislative Review will air nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. “The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 and 10 p.m. and Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins is Thursdays at 7 and 10 p.m.

Lawmakers spar over proposed capital gains tax

By | January 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

The debate over Gov. Jay Inslee‘s proposed capital gains tax continued along party lines at Thursday’s Associated Press Legislative Preview event.

The tax was debated on a budget panel that included Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger), ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Karen Fraser (D-Olympia), member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Inslee last month proposed a $39 billion 2015-17 budget that ends a number of tax breaks, charges carbon polluting companies and raises $800 million over two years through a proposed capital gains tax. The proposed capital gains tax would be 7 percent on money made from the sale of stocks and bonds above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers — which lawmakers say would affect the top 1 percent of earners in Washington state.

Inslee, in his Q&A session, defended his proposal of a capital gains tax, saying it gets the state closer to a system that can get the benefit of people earning more money without also increasing the tax burden on lower-income and middle-income earners.

“If we can tax higher income folks when they get capital gains, and not lower income folks when they buy a pair of shoes, that’s good,” he said.

“Whatever the concerns on the volatility of the capital gains tax, the alternative is zero,” Inslee said.

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond)

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond)

Hill criticized Inslee’s budget as perpetuating what he called a “deficit myth,” in which the only option was to raise taxes.

He said that because the state’s revenue has risen by more than 4 percent in each of the past two years, the state can continue its existing services and put an additional $1 billion in state education funding over two years.

“When I’m talking with business groups, I ask, ‘Would you like 4 percent growth year over year in this economy,’ ” he said. “I see nods. With some I see a little drool.”

“To say we have a huge budget problem, I think it’s meant to scare people,” Hill said. “The next step is you have to raise taxes.”

Hill also said that a capital gains tax is too unpredictable to be a reliable source of funding for school education, which was one of the requirements under the McCleary ruling. (more…)

Categories: Budget, WA House, WA Senate
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Lawmakers offer preview of 2015 session at Washington Policy Center summit in Bellevue

By | January 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

It wasn’t quite a debate, but the differences were clear in presentations on state legislative priorities given by Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) at the Washington Policy Center’s Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) speak at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), seated, and Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) speak at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Hill made the argument that the surplus in the state revenues would allow for an additional $1 billion in education spending and cover existing expenses over the next biennium.

However, Hill, the Senate Ways & Means chairman, criticized Gov. Jay Inslee‘s proposed new capital gains tax in his $39 billion, two-year budget, which the governor introduced last month.

“We do not have a brutal deficit,” Hill said. “It’s a false choice to say you raise taxes or you make cuts.”

Carlyle, the House Finance chairman, was critical of Washington’s taxing system as a whole, which he says squeezes middle- and lower-income taxpayers as well as small businesses. But Carlyle was also skeptical of the idea that the spending side of a budget should get the most scrutiny. He said many of the state’s tax exemptions to businesses have not been revisited since they were passed.

“I believe the best tax structure would be low rates, broadly applied with few exemptions,” he said.

The Washington Policy Center, a pro-business think tank, hosted Hill, Carlyle and Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) and others in a half-day summit that prepared attendees and other supporters for the 2015 Washington state legislative session. The Bellevue event, which drew 400 people, was the second day of a two-day summit on legislative issues. The first day was held in Kennewick on Tuesday.

Other speakers at the Bellevue event included former Attorney General Rob McKenna, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Forbes columnist and former health care policy advisor to Mitt Romney Avik Roy and a small business panel that included former Starbucks president Howard Behar and restaurateur Taylor Hoang, who owns Pho Cyclo restaurants.

Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) speaks at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

In a transportation forum, King, the Senate transportation chairman, declined to discuss in detail why lawmakers failed to come up with a transportation package that would pay for major road projects in the last session, but said that going forward, the state needs to consider what projects would make the greatest economic impact to the state as a whole.

“We got to take this limited amount of money and use it to address our problems,” he said. “Bike and ped paths are not our problem… They are nice to have, but not our problem.”

King, who was in the panel with Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also criticized cities that make local decisions without considering how transportation will be affected, such as in Seattle, where several projects in the South Lake Union area will bring 44,000 people to the area to live and work and bringing further congestion to the area, he said.

“Because Seattle said, ‘Hey, we’ll let you build those towers,’ is that the state’s problem?” King asked.

Governor Inslee proposes capital gains tax to fill budget gap

By | December 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

 

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time to “buck up” and invest in the state of Washington. He’s recommending a new capital gains tax to help close a $2 billion dollar gap in the next two-year budget.

“It is time to reinvest in our state and this budget does that,” Gov. Inslee said.

The Governor released his 2015-17 budget proposal Thursday. The $39 billion plan is a combination of cuts to current programs and new revenue. The focus is on four key areas: stronger schools, healthier kids, cleaner air, and a fairer tax system.

“There is one simple fact: we cannot balance this budget and educate our children on cuts alone.”

In addition to the charge on carbon polluters unveiled earlier in the week, Gov. Inslee proposes a seven percent capital gains tax on money made from the sale of stocks and bonds above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers. It would begin in 2016 and is estimated to raise $800 million dollars in the first biennium.

“This is a tax on fewer than one percent of Washingtonians,” the Governor explained.  “For those folks who have retirement accounts, stock in those accounts when they sell that stock, there will be zero capital gains on that.”

The Governor says Washington’s capital gains tax would be less than similar taxes in Idaho, Oregon and California.  Also exempt is money earned from the sale of homes, farms, and forestry.

“This is not intended to show any lack of respect for those who would pay under this proposal. We honor success in Washington. In fact, we treasure it, but we always have to push for fairness.” The Governor later explained why he believes a capital gains tax is a better option over a sales tax increase. “It would be unfair to working families in this tough economy, where you have such incredible income inequality, to put more tax burden on working families. I believe, in this circumstance where we’ve had such wealth creation in this state… That giving a beginning teacher, or a person who’s making $500,000 selling stocks and bonds, at this point we outta ask that wealthier person to step up to the plate.”

Among the other ideas on the list of new revenues, Gov. Inslee wants five tax breaks repealed, the state cigarette tax increased by 50 cents a pack, a new tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products, and a tax on bottled water.

Those new revenues add up to $1.4 billion dollars.

Given the size of the budget shortfall and the State Supreme Court mandate on McCleary, the Governor says statewide cuts are also needed. His budget proposal includes $211 million in General Fund spending cuts. Another $212 million was found by shifting General Fund costs to other fund sources and maximizing federal funds.

“The fact of the matter is we have made reductions of $12 billion dollars since the recession started. We have already slashed mental health way past the bone. We’re in the arteries.”  Governor Inslee said as a result the courts have held the state in contempt. “The point is this recession has put us $1 billion dollars in the hole, and we have slashed to the bone and now we’re looking into the cartilage to the tune of about $400 million dollars.”

The largest chunk of Gov. Inslee’s budget is dedicated to schools. He wants to spend $18.2 billion in order to meet McCleary. That would include money for smaller K-3 classes and full-day kindergarten for all students across the state.

Social and Health Services would get $6.4 billion. Washington colleges and universities would be allocated $3.4 billion, but in-state undergraduate tuition would be frozen.

When asked whether he changed his tune from the 2012 campaign when then-candidate Inslee vowed not to raise taxes: “The combination of the legislature not closing these loopholes… and increasing demands in education and mental health, we simply have not been able to generate the revenues necessary to provide vital services to Washingtonians. I have hoped to avoid this route. I have tried to avoid this route, but we now have an obligation to our children. They oughta have a first class education. It is a duty of ours and I intend to fulfill it.”

Immediately following the Governor’s news conference, the Senate Republican’s chief budget writer issued a statement. Sen. Andy Hill (R – Redmond) said, “Investing in student achievement and providing essential services should not depend on risky tax schemes that threaten our economy. Educating our children, caring for those in need and supporting our local economy demands thoughtful, bipartisan budget leadership. Tax increases should be the last resort, not the first response.”

You can see more of the details of the Governor’s 2015-17 budget proposal here.

You can also hear more from Governor Inslee’s budget director, David Schumacher.  He is the  guest on this week’s “Inside Olympia.”

Governor Jay Inslee to Release Entire Budget Proposal Thursday

By | December 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Governor Jay Inslee will release the entirety of his proposed 2015–17 biennial budget on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

TVW will carry the event live, both on TV and on our website.

Here’s the link to watch it live from your computer.

Gov. Inslee signs supplemental budget, vetoes a funding cut for life science fund

By | April 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature, but vetoed a section that would have cut funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

The fund provides research grants for the life sciences industry, and was established under former Gov. Chris Gregoire with money from tobacco settlements. The budget would have phased out $20 million for the fund and ended the program early.

Inslee said cutting off the funding prematurely is “short sighted,” and ignores the contributions the fund has made to the state.

He cited a program that was developed by the University of Washington and the Foundation for Health Care Quality using a $1.3 million dollar grant from the fund. That program cut healthcare costs by tens of millions of dollars by reducing the number of unnecessary surgeries and surgical complications, Inslee said.

Republican Sen. John Braun criticized the governor’s veto, saying it creates a bigger budget problem for next year by “punching a $20 million dollar hole.” He said the decision to cut funding was a difficult one for legislators on both sides the aisle, but was ultimately supported by 90 percent of lawmakers.

“To do a surprise veto at the end is disappointing,” Braun said.

The supplemental budget signed by the governor spends about $155 million dollars, including an additional $58 million for schools and $20 million for mental health services.

Inslee described it as a “modest” budget, and said he was frustrated it didn’t put more money into education by closing tax loopholes as he proposed. Next year, the state will need more than $1.5 billion dollars to fund the next step of McCleary obligations to pay for basic education, he said.

Braun said closing tax loopholes is a “tired” proposal, and Republicans believe the number needed for McCleary is closer to $750 million and can be achieved by prioritizing spending.

Inslee also vetoed several other sections of the supplemental budget. Read the full veto list here.

TVW taped the bill signing ceremony — watch it online here.

Categories: Budget, Healthcare

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.

PASSED:

Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Legislature passes supplemental operating budget on final day of session

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature passed a supplemental operating budget Thursday that increases spending on K-12 education by $58 million, but skips any tax break closures that Democrats hoped to pass this year.

The House passed the budget 85-13, with 13 Republicans voting against it. The Senate passed the budget 48-1, with Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, voting against it.

The supplemental budget spends about $155 million overall, including the $58 million for school books and supplies, $23 million in early learning and childcare, $20 million in mental health and $5.4 million for increased prison capacity.

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, called the budget it a “bipartisan victory,” and praised it for freezing tuition. “I think college students all across Washington state should celebrate today because for the second year in a row because they are not going to have a tuition increases,” he said.

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, said that her constituents encouraged her to reject the budget because it was not progressive enough. She voted in favor of it. “It’s not perfect,” Chase said. “But it’s not that bad.”

Liias voted against the budget because it did not include the continuation of tax incentives that benefits technology companies.

“Any budget is a tough decision it’s a balancing act,” Liias said. “I’m disappointed that our budget couldn’t reach agreement on two important investments in our innovation sector.”

Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, also shared the same concern, though she supported the budget.

“I think it was a huge missed opportunity that we are not extending those data center incentives,” she said.

Over in the House, Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, also objected to the lack of the technology tax breaks and voted against the bill. Communities in his district have had new jobs because of them, he said.

“We had a city that was a dusty little town and now it’s coming along,” he said. “There’s a lot of other happy states out there, because they’ll be happy to have those server farms.”

But Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, urged support of the budget.

“People in my community want a chance to catch their breath and to begin to rebuild after the past few years,” Chandler said. “What they continually tell me is that they want a legislature and a state government that will allow them stability predictability and sustainability.

“It won’t make everyone happy, as all budgets are, even our household budgets,” he said. (more…)

Categories: Budget

House passes supplemental budget, includes teacher pay raises

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The House passed a supplemental budget Tuesday, which amended the Senate’s budget with money directed to early learning and a cost-of-living pay increase for teachers and other school employees.

The budget passed with a final vote of 53 to 44. Lawmakers first debated more than 20 amendments, including one that provides $55.5 million for a cost-of-living pay raise for teachers approved by voters with Initiative 732.

“It is about respect,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, speaking in support of the amendment. “It is about the dignity of understanding what teachers do and saying, ‘we’re not going to cut you again.'”

The House also approved an amendment to create a pilot program to help released inmates re-integrate into society.

The budget makes adjustments to last year’s $33 billion operating budget. Rep. Ross Hunter said it makes “modest investments” in K-12 funding, early learning programs and “responds to an emergent need to improve mental health facilities.”

Speaking in opposition, Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, said the budget was “irresponsible” because it relies on a tax package that has not yet been approved by the House.

“It’s a tax increase,” she said. “It’s taxes to every single one of our constituents to pay for education.”

The Senate passed a supplemental budget last week that makes about $96 million in adjustments to the 2013-15 biennium, including $38 million for K-12 school technology, $5 million for the Real Hope Act, and money for mental health, new prison space and a medical marijuana patient registry. It passed with a bipartisan vote of 41 to 8, with eight Democrats voting no.

The House and Senate must now negotiate a budget agreement in the final week and half of session.

Categories: Budget

House Finance approves ending four tax breaks to raise money for education

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

A proposal to end four tax breaks, which would raise $100 million dollars for education, passed out of the House Finance committee Tuesday morning.

The four tax proposed tax breaks in HB 2796 are the following:

  • Implementing a sales tax for bottled water.
  • Taxing extracted fuel used by oil refineries.
  • Ending a preferential tax rate for prescription drug warehousing.
  • Changing the sales tax exemption for out-of-state shoppers into a refund program.

While the bill does not earmark the revenue for education, the House’s supplemental budget proposal, and the Democratic minority in the Senate have both identified ending these tax breaks as a way to raise state revenue.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, opposed the bill, saying that the refund program would hurt stores in border communities that depend on out-of-state customers.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama

 

“They are going to go, ‘I ain’t filling out no form.’ What they’re going to do is they are going to stand there and they are going look at the clerk and say, ‘ You keep your goods. I’m going somewhere else,’ ” he said.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, committee chair and bill sponsor, urged the bill’s passage.

“There’s a strong case that the value to the public is the greatest to invest these dollars in our one million school kids in the state of Washington,” he said.

The bill passed out of committee 8 to 5.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Taxing e-cigarettes, involuntary commitment and House floor action

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Monday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have a story about a proposed 95 percent tax on e-cigarettes. The proposal drew strong opposition from more than a dozen vapor shop owners and former smokers, who say that e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to smoking.

Plus, lawmakers hear testimony from the parents of Joel Reuter, who was killed in a shootout with Seattle police. They are seeking changes to the state’s involuntary commitment law. The third segment of the show wraps up a couple of bills passed off the House floor on Monday.

Watch it below:

Categories: Budget, Healthcare

Former smokers oppose a 95 percent tax increase on e-cigarettes

By | March 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

E-cigarettes look, taste and feel like real cigarettes. But, they have a few major differences: They are tobacco-free, battery operated and contain a flavored liquid mix.

During a House Finance Committee on Friday lawmakers considered a bill that would put a 95 percent tax on the tobacco substitutes, also known as vapor products.  This would make them taxed the same as regular tobacco products.

Dozens of former smokers and vapor store owners testified against the bill and said they fear a tax increase would put vapor business out of work and discourage smokers who are trying to kick the habit.

Zach Mclean, a previous smoker for 25 years and vapor store owner, said that e-cigarettes saved his life.

“I got my smell back, my taste back and in a month I was tackling stairs again,” said Mclean.

Other opponents to the legislation explained that after switching to the fake cigarettes they could run marathons, play football with their children again and enjoy fuller lives. Kim Johnson, a vapor store owner, said the reason e-cigarettes are more effective than the patch, gum and other tobacco substitutes is because it satisfies the “hand to mouth” habit.

However, Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, challenged the idea that e-cigarettes are good for you. While the products are healthier compared to real cigarettes, he said nicotine is still addictive.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, also expressed concern that adults trying to quit smoking are not the only ones using the products. E-cigarettes doubled in popularity among teenagers between 2011 and 2012 and one in five middle schoolers said they have tried the tobacco substitutes, according to the Center Disease Control and Prevention.

Susan Tracy of the Washington State Medical Association, the only one to testify in support of the bill, said that more research needs to be conducted on the products and there is “no scientific data” to back up the claims that e-cigarettes are safe. The F.D.A has yet to approve e-cigarettes.

The committee took no action on the bill Friday. It is scheduled for a committee vote at 8 a.m. Tuesday. TVW will air the hearing live on television and webcast it here.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Supplemental budget, school construction bonds and healthcare costs

By | February 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Thursday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from the Senate floor debate over the supplemental budget, which passed with a vote of 41 to 8 . Plus, details about a plan to pay for school construction with bonds back by lottery money.

And a plan to create a statewide health care cost database is struck from a bill in committee. Watch the show below:

Categories: Budget, Education, Healthcare

Senate passes supplemental budget, 41-8

By | February 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Senate passed a supplemental budget on Thursday that includes $38 million for education, although some Democratic lawmakers argued that it wasn’t enough.

The supplemental budget passed with a bipartisan vote of 41 to 8. In addition to money for school technology and supplies, it also provides funding for the Dream Act/Real Hope Act, mental health, prison beds and a medical marijuana patient registry.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said the budget was written with bipartisan input, and balances through the next budget cycle. “Two things I hope by passing this,” he said. “We get out of here on time, and next year we won’t be facing a deficit.”

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, criticized the budget for not including more money for schools at a time the Legislature is facing a mandate from the state Supreme Court to fund basic education.

“Kids go school every year,” Pedersen said. “They don’t go to school only on odd years when we do budget, and an entire budget year is going by in which we are not making adequate process toward our constitutional obligation to our kids.”

Pedersen voted against the budget, along with seven other Democrats.

Lawmakers amended the budget to increase nursing home assessment fees, which supporters say will provide more federal dollars for the state’s nursing home facilities.

The House has proposed its own supplemental budget and both sides must negotiate an agreement.

Categories: Budget

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Death penalty hearing, supplemental budget proposals

By | February 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” several family members of murder victims testified at a Senate committee on a bill that would require death penalty cases to go through the state Clemency and Pardons Board process before the governor could issue a reprieve. It was brought in response to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s moratorium on executions while he’s governor.

We also have details on the supplemental budget proposal from House Democrats, as well as public testimony on the Senate’s supplemental budget proposal. Watch the show below:

Categories: Budget, Criminal Justice

House Democrats release proposed supplemental budget, tax revenue plan

By | February 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

House Democrats released a proposed supplemental budget on Wednesday, along with a plan to raise about $100 million dollars for teacher pay raises, early education and other K-12 spending by closing four tax breaks.

The $173 million supplemental budget proposal includes an additional $64 million for schools, including $60 million for technology, materials and supplies.

It also allocates $10 million in community mental health funding increases, including money for a bill that allow the families of those with mental illness to seek help for their loved ones through the courts. The bill was requested by the parents of Joel Rueter, who was killed in a shootout with Seattle police. 

Additionally, the proposal includes $7 million for new prison space and $21 million for child care.

“This is a normal supplemental budget, a modest supplemental budget,” said Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina).

Its spending increase is greater than the $96 million supplemental budget proposed by the Senate on Monday, characterized by Hunter as a small difference. “These budgets… are remarkably similar,” he said.

Democrats also outlined a revenue plan that would raise money for education by ending four tax breaks, including exemptions for bottled water, out-of-state shoppers, extracted fuel used by oil refineries and prescription drug warehouses. The four tax breaks are the same ones the Senate Democrats targeted in a press conference on Tuesday on their proposed plan to address the McCleary decision.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) criticized the Senate for proposing extending 20 tax breaks that would cost $243 million.

“Budgets are moral documents,”‘ he said.

Hunter said the House is ready to negotiate over the differences, and expects that the Legislature will have a budget before the regular session ends.

In a prepared statement, Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger), the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, warned against the caucuses trading off priorities.

“The one thing we all as budget writers need to be careful of is buying each other off. We can’t just take one list of ‘wants’ from the Senate and combine it with another list of ‘wants’ from the House. That kind of ‘negotiating’ doesn’t serve the citizens of Washington and in the past has led to problems as state budgets grew far beyond what the taxpayers could afford,” he said.

He also said that any McCleary spending should be handled next session. “Any effort to significantly increase spending for McCleary should be done when we write the next two-year budget, not in a supplemental budget,” he said.

The House’s proposed budget is posted to fiscal.wa.gov. TVW recorded the press conference, and you can watch it here:

Categories: Budget, WA House

Lottery money would back $700M bonds for school construction in House proposal

By | February 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

A bipartisan proposal in the House plans to take out $700 million in bonds for school construction, backed with proceeds from Washington’s Lottery, representatives on the House Capital Budget Committee announced on Wednesday.

Representatives Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) and Drew McEwen (R-Union) jointly made the announcement as part of the House supplemental capital budget presentation, made after House Democrats presented a proposed supplemental operating budget.

While the plan partly would answer the State Supreme Court’s report and deadline for the McCleary lawsuit decision, which determined that the state was not paying enough toward basic K-12 education, Dunshee and McEwen both said that wasn’t the main reason behind the proposal. 

“We’re not doing this because the court told us,” Dunshee said. “We are doing this because this is what we want to do; this is in our DNA; this is what we ought to do; and we’re damn glad that the court agrees with us. It is really wind in our sails.”  

McEwen, who signed a letter criticizing the McCleary report and April deadline, said that his disagreement was separate from his support of backing construction bonds with lottery money. He said that voters support this use of lottery money, as shown by the passage of Initiative 728, which dedicated lottery revenue to school construction projects.

“The voters spoke to this in 2000,” McEwen said.

The $700 million in construction bonds could pay for up to 2,000 classrooms, and the proposal also calls for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to write guidelines for dividing the money throughout the state.

Unlike the current construction funding system, local districts would not have to pass a local levy to receive the construction funding from this proposal, according to fact sheet passed out at the press conference.

You can see the entire House capital proposal on fiscal.wa.gov.

You can watch the press conference on TVW’s website:

Categories: Budget, Education
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