|February 4, 2019|
The 2019 legislative session is off to an incredibly fast start, and time marches on for Inslee, who is in his second term.
Drew Shirk, executive director of legislative affairs, described 19 high priority bills for the governor’s office, from more investments in early childhood learning to clean energy and a new public option in the healthcare arena.
“That’s a huge agenda,” Shirk said.
Shirk also addressed the timing behind it. He pointed out that the current session is the last budget-writing session for Inslee’s current term. The governor was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.
“This is the last biennium of the second term,” Shirk said. “So regardless of other things that people might be thinking...We have a clock as well.”
Early learning is a high priority of the governor, Shirk added. He pointed to research that shows investments in early learning can pay off strong dividends for society later on.
“Every dollar that we put in up front will hopefully reduce our costs later on in our education, in our public assistance, in our criminal justice, in our mental health,” Shirk said.
Early learning is a priority for employers, as well. AWB sponsored an Early Learning Summit last year in SeaTac, where educators, employers and advocates gathered to share best practices and work on solutions to help families and create a more stable workforce.
Thursday’s event also featured David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management.
Schumacher addressed Washington’s record tax collections, which are about $50 billion right now.
He said even that does not quite pay for the government we have right now, let alone add new programs.
One of the biggest drivers of the budget now are the public education commitments that were made in the last budget cycle to address the McCleary court decision.
“The bills were passed but they were not fully-funded until this biennium,” Schumacher said.
In a typical year, the growth in the budget to maintain K-12 education is about $1.5 billion, he said. This year it’s about $4 billion, or a difference of $2.5 billion.
He also mentioned 3 percent salary increases for state employees, fully funding a college State Need Grant program and a new healthcare program for school employees as factors driving the budget.
Inslee’s budget proposal relies on a new 9 percent capital gains tax, an increase in the B&O tax on service businesses and an increase in the real estate excise tax. AWB’s position is that state government can operate within the $50 billion in current tax collections, and not raise taxes on the employers and entrepreneurs that create jobs and new products.
AWB’s Lobby Lunch will continue throughout the 2019 legislative session at the AWB offices, located at 1414 Cherry Street SE in Olympia.
This week's lunch on Thursday, Feb. 7, will feature Democratic leaders Rep. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, and Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland.
Republican leaders will speak next week: Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm.
Lobby Lunch is open to current AWB members. The cost is $25. To register for an upcoming Lobby Lunch, contact Liv Johnson via email or at 360.943.1600. Registrations are due by 5 p.m. of the Monday before each Thursday event.
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