Archive for Democrats

Proposal would use $300 million from “rainy day” fund to combat homelessness

By | February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Senate Democrats announced a bill Thursday aimed at addressing what they describe as a homelessness “crisis” in Washington.

Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, announces the Bring Washington Home Act at press conference on Feb. 4

Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, announces the Bring Washington Home Act at press conference on Feb. 4

Supporters call the bill the “Bring Washington Home Act,” and it would spend nearly $300 million on services and housing for homeless people in Washington. It’s sponsored by Senate Democratic Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, along with 21 other Democratic co-sponsors.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here.

The bill spends $281 million — of which $186 million would come from the Budget Stabilization Account, commonly referred to as the state’s “rainy day fund.” The account was created to help the state get through emergencies and recessions. It is expected to have over $700 million in it by June 2017.

“The Bring Washington Home Act is a holistic approach to homelessness. It uses existing money sitting in the rainy day fund and invests in people and families that are homeless or in danger of being homeless,” Nelson said. “This is money that’s sitting in the bank.”

It takes a three-fifths vote to use funds from the rainy day account, which would require another seven votes to get out of the Senate. Then, the House would also have to approve it by a three-fifths vote. Nelson said Senate Republican leadership has continually said they don’t want to dip into that fund.

Recently, Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R- Ritzville, was quoted as disagreeing with Sen. Nelson’s proposal to use the rainy day fund, calling homelessness “her emergency.”

Nelson said she was “taken aback” by the comment. “This isn’t about me.” she said.

“There’s an outcry in the state,” she added. “And if the Republicans just want to say ‘No,’ that’s shameful.”

Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia, Federal Way, said he agrees that homelessness is an emergency, citing several bills he’s involved in this session that address the issue. However, he says using the rainy day fund isn’t the way to approach it.

“We might as well just burn the $300 million on the Capitol steps,” he said.

Miloscia said that “throwing money” at the emergency or at existing programs will be a “complete failure.” He agrees they need to invest, but not until existing programs are managed more effectively. He said the state needs to start changing the way they deliver services to homeless people. (more…)

Rep. Hans Dunshee elected new budget chair in House

By | September 21, 2015 | 0 Comments
Rep. Hans Dunshee

Rep. Hans Dunshee

Rep. Hans Dunshee is the new lead Democratic budget writer in the House and will take over as chair of the Appropriations Committee, House Democrats announced Monday.

He replaces Ross Hunter, who recently left the Legislature to head up the state Dept. of Early Learning.

Dunshee previously chaired the House Capital Budget Committee, which crafts the state’s construction budget. The Snohomish Democrat is a former small business owner and volunteer firefighter who has served a little over 20 years in the Legislature.

Dunshee’s budget-writing counterpart in the Senate is Republican Sen. Andy Hill, who said earlier this month he will not run for governor in 2016.

Hunter’s seat has yet to be filled. King County Democrats last week selected lawyer Patty Kuderer, Redmond City Councilwoman Kim Allen and real estate broker Santiago Ramos as nominees to fill the vacancy. The final choice will be made by the Metropolitan King County Council.

Categories: Democrats, WA House

House Democrats release latest budget plan, call for ending several tax breaks

By | June 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday held a public hearing on the latest Democratic budget plan, which does not include new taxes but would raise about $356 million by closing several tax breaks.

Lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said Monday the plan does not represent an agreement with Senate Republicans, but is a “move to keep our negotiations moving forward.”

Democrats are no longer calling for a capital gains or other new taxes to pay for increased spending on early learning, mental health and other programs. Hunter said the latest budget represents only “what you can actually buy and pay for” without new revenue.

It makes the minimal expenditures required to comply with K-12 education spending for McCleary, mental health lawsuits and other settlements, Hunter said. It also freezes college tuition for a year and pays for state worker raises. Read the summary here.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said in a news release the budget is a “backup plan designed to meet the very basic needs of the state and avoid a shutdown.” State government would be forced into a partial shutdown if a budget is not adopted by June 30.

Democrats are also proposing House Bill 2269 — which Sullivan called “Plan A” — to close or limit several tax breaks to raise additional money for education. Bottled water would no longer be exempt from sales tax, a preferential business-and-occupation tax rate for resellers of prescription drugs would be eliminated and a tax break for extracted fuel would be narrowed.

Revenue of about $356 million from closing the tax breaks would pay for additional teacher cost-of-living raises, more early learning spots and increased funding for the state’s colleges and universities.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale criticized the plan, saying it still amounts to a tax increase. “They say they want to close tax loopholes. But I think the people of Washington see though it and understand these are taxes on things they need in their daily lives,” he said.

TVW aired the public hearing — watch it here. The committee is scheduled to vote on the plan on Tuesday.

Categories: Budget, Democrats

House Democrats come down on new revenue in latest budget proposal

By | June 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

House Democrats on Monday released a revised $38.4 billion budget proposal that calls for about $550 million in new taxes, down from the $1.5 billion in taxes they sought in their March budget proposal.

The two-year operating budget proposed by Democrats remains about $640 million apart from the no-new-taxes budget proposal released last week from mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the latest Democratic offer is a “substantial compromise” that moves toward the Senate on several items.

“We reduce our spending substantially and we reduce our revenue package by two-thirds,” Sullivan said during a budget briefing with reporters.

Lead budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said Democrats are reducing by $207 million the amount allocated to school districts to buy health care benefits, although he cautioned that could change as talks with legislators continue.

Democrats on Monday highlighted where they spend more in their budget than Republicans, including $168 million in human services, $150 million for teacher cost-of-living pay raises, $114 million for early learning and $50 million for mental health.

To pay for the increased spending, Democrats are calling for a capital gains tax of 5 percent on the profits of sales of stocks and bonds that would raise between $500 and $600 million in new revenue for the state. The tax would affect about 32,000 residents.

Senate Republicans have maintained the state does not need new taxes to meet budget and education spending obligations. The $37.9 billion budget proposal released last week by Senate Republicans increases spending in several areas compared to their March budget, including paying the full cost of negotiated pay raises for state workers.

Watch the Democratic press conference at this link. The budget is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday at 11 a.m., which TVW will air on television and at this link.

Hunter said legislators also plan to consider a bill this week that addresses school levies and teacher compensation. The bill is not yet scheduled for a hearing — we’ll update this with the TVW link once it is.

Full budget documents are available here.

Categories: Budget, Democrats, TVW, WA House

Senate Democrats ‘fair and balanced’ rule proposal fails on floor

By | March 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

Senate Democrats’ proposal to introduce a rule for “fair and balanced” committee hearings failed on the floor along party lines Wednesday, 23-25 with one absence.

Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, introduced the proposal on the floor.

In a statement to reporters last week, she said Democrats are concerned that speakers on both sides on an issue have been unable to testify at committee hearings, particularly in the Commerce and Labor committee, headed by Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

However, Majority Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, told The Capitol Record that he believes the rule is unnecessary, and made similar comments on the floor on Wednesday.

Senate Republicans all voted against the measure. The one absent vote was Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who caucuses with the Republicans in the Majority Coalition Caucus.

The rule would have been similar to a House of Representatives rule that lawmakers say has been in place for several years.

Under Rule 24, second D, 11, the House rules state, “Insofar as practicable, testimony in public hearings should be balanced between those in support of and in opposition to proposed legislation, with consideration given to providing an opportunity for members of the public to testify within available time.”

The parties continued the debate over Twitter:

Senate Democrats to seek new rule on ‘fairness and balance’

By | March 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

This post has been updated with comments from the Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler.

Senate Democrats plan to ask for a new rule calling for “fair and balanced” hearings, after raising concerns about equity in hearings in the Senate Commerce and Labor committee, Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said Monday.

Sen. Sharon Nelson

Sen. Sharon Nelson

Nelson spoke at a Democratic leadership press availability on Monday morning. The rule could be introduced later this week.

Nelson said Democrats are concerned that representatives on both sides on an issue have been unable to testify at committee hearings, particularly in the Commerce and Labor committee, headed by Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

“We feel that it’s important that both sides of an issue be heard. In particular, in Commerce and Labor, that’s not happening,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that Democratic leadership has approached the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus leadership regarding the fairness issue.

“Only one side is pretty much being allowed to testify and the others are cut short,” Nelson said. “That’s not what the public expects from this institution.”

Baumgartner declined to comment on the question of whether Commerce and Labor is being run fairly.

However, Majority Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said Monday that he has reminded the committee chairs to “pay attention the needs of the minority.”

“The Labor committee has always been contentious,” Schoesler said. “Let’s be real, they didn’t propose any fairness doctrine when they were in the majority.”

Schoesler said the Republicans did not try to propose a similar rule when they were the minority party.

“We understood the majority controlled the agenda,” Schoesler said.

A fairness rule would be patterned after a House of Representatives rule that lawmakers say has been in place for several years.

Under Rule 24, second D, 11, the House rules state, “Insofar as practicable, testimony in public hearings should be balanced between those in support of and in opposition to proposed legislation, with consideration given to providing an opportunity for members of the public to testify within available time.”

The simple majority of Senators would have to approve the rule change.

The Senate rules have seen a change this year; the first day of session, Senate Majority Coalition Caucus introduced a rule that any new taxes would have to be approved by two-thirds of the chamber. The rule was approved by a majority, but later overturned by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

TVW taped the press conference. We will post it here when it is available.

Bills fall by the wayside after mid-session cutoff

By | March 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

While some bills made it through the halfway point, and will continue to be considered, other bills have fallen by the wayside.

Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters on Thursday that he was disappointed that a bill limiting vaccination exemptions did not make it to the House floor for a vote. He said the Department of Health will find “new, creative ways” to get information about vaccines to parents this year, and he hoped to see the bill return next year.

Doug Reuter, the father of the namesake of Joel’s Law, told AP that he was hoping to see lawmakers pass House Bill 1450, which would have expand the criteria for involuntary treatment.

House Republicans posted a list of bills the caucus was following. Dead bills listed in the House Republicans’ “good” category include House Bill 1446, which would have permitted certain restaurant employers to pay 16- and 17-year olds less than minimum wage; and House Bill 1741, which would have allowed disabled people to enter state land without a Discover Pass.

Senate Democrats also released a listed of dead bills that its caucus had backed. The list included Senate Bill 5752, regarding creating statements of impact on ethnic and racial minorities for bills affecting criminal justice, human services, and education, and Senate Bill 5527, which would have extended the deadlines for voter registration.

We also asked on Twitter what bills people wished made it through.

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.

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.