Capital Budget – Building Stuff

The capital budget is the fund we use to make long-term investments in (mostly) physical things that are going to be around for a while. School construction, new buildings for colleges and universities, park acquisition, stuff like that. Just like your home mortgage, some of these investments are done on borrowed money.

The state constitution limits the amount of debt service that can be paid to 9% of “general state revenue,” so this puts a limit on the total that can be borrowed. I think this is a quite reasonable limitation.

There are useful investments in the budget passed this year, like hundreds of millions in new K-12 school construction funds. These are critical if we want to have the space needed for additional classrooms to accommodate smaller class sizes. There are also a number that are more fun, like a $1 million contribution to Bellevue’s “Imagination Playground”, a facility built to be accessible to all kids, especially including those with disabilities. It’s a project being spearheaded by the Bellevue Rotary. There are also contributions to two Boys and Girls club facilities in Bellevue – the new fieldhouse in Hidden Valley and the rebuild of the main clubhouse on 100th Ave. Kirkland gets some help building the cross-Kirkland corridor, and Redmond gets funding to complete the downtown park and help Hopelink with its integrated services center. You can see a map of these projects here.

Without contributions like these from the state, projects like these would be unaffordable by local governments and non-profits. I’m glad that we were able to pass a Capital Budget this year after fulfilling our constitutional obligation to fun McCleary and other social services.

 

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Transportation!

Fogging the deck

Crews spray down the deck of the new, temporary westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard to keep it moist in the hot weather before placing wet burlap to let the concrete cure. (Photo – WSDOT)

On Friday, July 10 the House approved the final agreement on Transportation. I’m happy to have supported it, though I have some concerns. (You always do when it’s a compromise between groups with very different views about the appropriate set of investments.)

The Good:

  • The SR 520 bridge will be finished. There is $1.6 billion in the package for the remaining part of the West landing. There is also funding for a new SR 520 interchange at 148th Ave. to support major developments in the Overlake area. This should help alleviate a lot of the slowdowns in that area and allow more density so that we have less sprawl. Also included is planning for a new interchange on SR 520 at 124th Ave. that will allow the Spring District in Bellevue to grow and have rational access to the freeway.
  • A new I-405 lane from Bellevue to Renton, plus lots of work on the SR 167 interchange.
  • Sound Transit III authorized.
  • This package is the largest investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure ever in our state. There are some super Eastside projects I’ll write about once I deconstruct the whole package.

The Bad: Continue reading

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Post-Session Notes, Operating Budget Comments

The Washington State House of Representatives convenes for floor session March 9, 2015, the 57th day of the legislative session.

Rep. Kagi and I working on the Early Start bill on the floor of the House. My Sound Transit water bottle is in the foreground.

Thank  you again for letting me represent you in Olympia. It’s an honor and a privilege, though I feel much less privileged when the session runs into July. We finished our work Friday morning June 10th, passing a transportation spending bill and bills that allow the state to take out bonds based on the revenue. We also passed a small bill changing high school graduation requirements, the centerpiece of a disagreement in the Senate over initiative 1351 (class size reduction.) The graduation bill delays the imposition of the science standards for two years, allowing 2000 kids who met all the graduation requirements other than passing the biology end of course exam to graduate. It does NOT make a number of other changes I took issue with when they came up earlier in session.

In the last week of June we passed the 2015-17 operating budget, my particular responsibility in the Legislature. It’s reasonably straightforward and didn’t need to take us until the end of June to resolve, but the Republican Senate was unwilling to compromise on their all-gimmicks, no revenue strategy until the very end. In the last few days we came to an agreement that is a true compromise – the House conceded to the use of more financial shortcuts than we would have preferred and the Republican Senate agreed to close $350 million of tax loopholes. I didn’t get everything I wanted, and there are some elements of the deal that are distasteful. I think the same is true for the Senate Republicans. Had we gone past June 30th the state would have gone into a partial shutdown, including laying off doctors and nurses, shutting childcare facilities for 50,000 kids (which would cause 30,000 low-income single moms to lose their jobs or depend on sketchy care), and other bad things.

I’m glad to live and work in “this” Washington, a place where we can discuss issues rationally and come to compromises, unlike the “other” Washington where they seem to have great difficulty in doing so. I do wish it took less time. Continue reading

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McCleary, the Court and Funding Compensation

Chris Vance has a lot to say in this article on Crosscut that I agree with, but more that I don’t.

Washington State Temple of Justice – Home of the State Supreme Court

He is right that the Legislature didn’t address the compensation element and still needs to. I expect the court to have something to say on this soon.

However, he and Superintendent Dorn remain confused about the scope of class-size reduction requirements the court specifies. He seems to believe that the court is requiring class size reductions in grades 4-12. They are not.

The Legislature created many advisory groups to provide input for the decisions it would make on class size investments, compensation, etc. These groups, while often providing valuable advice, do not make decisions that become part of the definition of “basic education.” If they did we would  be spending prodigious amounts of money indeed. The Legislature reserves for itself the definition of basic education, and, based on inputs from several advisory groups, made those changes in HB 2776 in 2010. This created requirements for lower class sizes in K-3, all-day Kindergarten, a transportation funding formula that was based on expected costs, and maintenance and supplies funding. The court Specifically insisted that the Legislature fund the definition in that bill. We have done so. Both House Democrat and Senate Republican budgets funded a rational phase in of these investments, and provide adequate funding in the 2017-19 biennium to finish the job before 2018. The final budget does as well.

I agree with Mr. Vance that compensation for basic education employees is a responsibility of the state, not of local districts, and that significant structural changes will need to be made to how funding goes out to address the problem. I proposed HB 2239 this year that created a plan to work this out, with an court-enforceable deadline of 2018. The Senate Republicans refused to take up the bill, and did not send their proposal over to the House. This might lead one to believe that they are choosing to ask the court to be more aggressive in forcing resolution.

The remaining problem is about $3.5 billion a biennium, not $5 billion a year. Much, but not all of this is already being paid by taxpayers and a large part of the problem could be resolved with a wrenching property tax change that would be close to revenue-neutral at the state level, but cause significant tax increases in urban areas and corresponding decreases in rural areas. Not surprisingly, this has been resisted by urban areas who suggest a more balanced way of addressing the problem using capital gains or some other mechanism in addition to some of the property tax changes I and others have proposed over the years.

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Legislature Still has Work to Do

House budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter watches amazing 90-8 bipartisan vote on budget

You may have read in the press that the Legislature got a budget done by midnight on June 30th, allowing the state to continue providing unemployment assistance, Medicaid, childcare, public schools, college classes, and all of the other things that we have decided to do collectively. I am frustrated that we were unable to come to an agreement more quickly, but pleased that we got it done. I’ll write more about the budget and what’s in it over the next few weeks.

However, we have work to do before we sign off. The Senate is high-centered on I-1351. I predicted that it would be difficult to come to a 2/3 vote on this issue and was proven correct by Tuesday night’s activities. Melissa Santos has a reasonable summary in the Tacoma News Tribune.

Continue reading

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(Almost) Post-Session Advice

You’ll start getting some (almost) post-session notes from me now that I have time to digest what happened and what still needs to be finished. I have not had time recently to keep up with posting the advice cards I got from kids at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue so I’ll release several as catch-up. I believe this one is the 13th in the series. I have another dozen or so in reserve and will put them up as I get to it. These almost deserve a book of their own – to be handed out to legislators as they take office.

Advice Card 11

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WSDOT: Public Tours of the New 520 Bridge – Register Today!

[Update 7/13/15] The text below is from WSDOT, not from me. They are offering this tour. It’s probably full by now anyway. They may offer more, so it’s worth watching the space if you are interested.

bridge tourRegistration opens today for next public tour of the new SR 520 floating bridge

Are you curious about complex feats of technical engineering? Have you driven on the world’s longest floating bridge and wondered about the slightly longer floating bridge taking shape right alongside? Do you enjoy wearing a hard hat and reflective vest?

If so, you’re going to love this news. Registration opens today (July 2) at 10 a.m. for the next of our summer public tours of the new SR 520 floating bridge. Leaving from Medina, these guided tours will give you a hardhat-required look at the new bridge, from vantage points not typically accessible to the general public.

Visit our website for full information and links to put your name in for a spot. The tours take place on the last Saturday of each month, beginning in May and lasting through September.

Demand has been very high for these tours, and spots are limited. So signing up is not a guarantee of securing a spot. Tour participants will be randomly selected from those signed up, with separate sign-ups held prior to each month’s tour.

Additionally, we are offering tours of the West Approach Bridge North project in Montlake. The next tour of this project is Wednesday, Aug. 5. Information about these tours also is available on our website.

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Bills I’m Hearing About – Voting Rights, Erin’s Law, Solar and Front License Plates

I’m getting a lot of mail about a handful of policy bills that did not pass during the regular session. While most of them seem like reasonable policy to me, it’s difficult to imagine that the Legislature will come to agreement on them at this point since we were unable to in the regular session or the first special session. From today we have 10 days until the end of the fiscal year to agree on a budget, and every iota of work is going into coming to agreement on that.

The Legislature has ruthless deadlines to ensure that we can get our work done on time. ALL of these bills have passed all the deadlines and regardless of their importance it would be extraordinary if they came up for a vote by the end of the session. Continue reading

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Meeting on K-12 Compensation and Levy Reform

[UPDATE 5/20/15 10:30 PM We will be on TVW. You can find it on their website or click here.]

As I mentioned in my last blog post and newsletter, I think it’s necessary to discuss the details about levy reform in detail and in public.

Tomorrow, we are hosting a work session on K-12 levy and compensation reform. This session will be a chance for staff to present data on levy issues and for Legislators to discuss, in full public view, this information. While there will be no formal public testimony accepted during the session, we will welcome follow-up feedback from attendees.

Based on the work session and subsequent public feedback, I hope that we will be able to come to joint conclusions that reflect a larger consensus. Bipartisan support of a solution to this issue will be crucial for moving anything forward, and this won’t be achieved without the input and understanding of the public as well.

Thursday, May 21
10:30 a.m.
House Hearing Room C
Washington State Capitol, Olympia

To learn more about these issues, check out my blog here and here for some lengthy discussions on the topic.

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Respectful and Understanding…

Advice Card 13

More useful advice from the fourth graders of Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.

Posted in Advice from 4th Graders | Tagged | 1 Comment