As we head in to Day #2, here’s a wrap-up our first day’s high points:
The top story during our first day in Olympia? All four Transportation Committee leaders from both houses: Senators King and Hobbs, as well as Representatives Clibborn and Orcutt, each stated that a transportation package was very likely, and that there’s a good chance it would include several Spokane County projects, including the North Spokane Corridor. Transportation projects rank high on the GSI 2015 State Legislative Priority Agenda, and this news from house leaders is excellent for our region because this infrastructure is critical to our region’s economic growth.
We hit the ground running yesterday with David Schumacher, Director of the Office of Financial Management. This was a great introduction for our delegation because he gave an excellent overview of the Governor’s proposed budget, where it came from, and where it’s headed. Without the education measures facing the legislature this session, the budget would be relatively balanced. However, a set of funding obligations that the state cannot currently afford presents a real challenge. The Governor’s plan is a blend of these obligations, prioritizing the needs set forth in McCleary through $1.4 million in new revenue.
The 2012 Supreme Court McCLeary ruling dictated that the state was not meeting its obligations to fund basic education. Initiative 1351, which passed this past fall, reduces class sizes beyond the requirements of McCleary and would cost the state $6 Billion per biennium in operating cost to implement, with additional funding required to actualize the additional infrastructure needed to accommodate these students.
The chairs and ranking minority members of both Ways & Means and Appropriations had a divergent set of perspectives on the Governor’s budget, however all were wary of the spending increases necessary to meet the requirements of McCleary and Initiative 1351. Representative Ross Hunter, House Appropriations Committee Chair, made it clear that the increases facing the state with McCleary are necessary and that cutting programs is not the place to start. On the other side, Senator Andy Hill, Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair, made it clear that taxes should be an absolute last resort and that a balanced budget should be achievable without additional revenues. Despite these clear differences, all four members who discussed the budget prided themselves on their ability to reach across the aisle and find compromise.
As the story unfolds in Olympia, it’s important to remember that there are things we can do at home, in the greater-Spokane area, that can make a real difference. Ballots for the school bonds & levies issues drop on January 23 and all votes must be submitted by February 10. Education is at the heart of a healthy economy and your YES vote will help assure a stronger future for the students of today and the industries of tomorrow. If you need to register to vote, click here.
Day 2’s focus will be on health care, energy and a closer look at the legislative session’s anticipated opportunities and challenges. Before calling it a night the #GSIFlyIn delegation will head to the Governor’s Mansion for the Spokane Grand Reception.
Stay tuned for more as we continue to advocate on behalf of a healthier business climate for our region.