State Representative Reuven Carlyle is back from a busy legislative session in Olympia, and he’s sent us a recap of what happened in the last few months in our capitol.
The 2012 legislative sessions are now complete in Olympia and it’s a joy to reconnect with my family and friends in Seattle! While serving as your part-time citizen legislator is a genuine and meaningful honor, it’s also a challenge when we fail to reach agreement on the budget in a timely fashion. My top priority this year was to stop the unwise budget cuts to Seattle schools, University of Washington and other priorities while protecting the core safety net for foster youth, health care and other vital human services.
Here’s a quick overview of the Legislature’s work this year.
In recent years state revenues have slowed dramatically while demand for public schools and costs of health care soared. Due primarily to our inefficient tax structure, we entered the 2012 session with a projected deficit of $1.7 billion. As a member of the powerful Ways & Means Committee, I have worked hard to prioritize public education and balance the budget responsibly while protecting vital public services such as Basic Health Plan, child care support, public health, and job training. In the end I supported and we adopted a supplemental budget that—for the first time in four years—avoids additional cuts to education. I continue to strive to make meaningful improvements in reducing unnecessary spending and ensuring that we produce a budget that is both morally and fiscally responsible. Here is a link to a table you might find interesting. It shows how negotiations unfolded and the Legislature was able to maintain funding for many of our state’s most important programs in comparison to other budget proposals.
Key Bill Passage
The blessings of marriage
The 2012 Legislature took a profoundly meaningful and historic step forward in the journey for equality by honoring the right of gays and lesbians to celebrate the blessings of marriage. I am proud to have co-sponsored the Marriage Equality bill in the House and join with many legislative colleagues, newspapers, Microsoft, Starbucks and other leading companies to support the marriage rights of all. Assuming the bill survives the expected referendum challenge this November, Washington will become the seventh state to legally recognize the right of gay and lesbians to marry.
World-class Public Infrastructure and Jobs Now!
To take advantage of historically low-interest rates and help jump-start the economy, we crafted a bipartisan “Jobs Now” construction budget to invest in our public infrastructure. From K-12 schools and university buildings and state parks development and repairs, we are investing in vital public buildings and facilities that support everyone’s quality of life. As a legislator I have stood firmly against excessive borrowing for short-term spending needs or operational budgets. In this legislation, the long-term interest rates are low and our investment in public infrastructure statewide is a long term benefit for our state’s 6.8 million people. In the short and long term, this investment will also help generate more than 9,000 jobs in Seattle and statewide.
My 2012 legislation
Supporting Our Kids in Foster Care
Improving the safety, health and education of our state’s 10,000 youth in foster care remains a moral driver of my legislative service. Less than 3% of foster youth ever achieve the dream of a college education while ten times that number will enter our criminal justice system. My dream is to reverse these numbers. I am proud to have taken a big step toward that goal this year with the passage of HB 2254 that reforms, funds and extends the nationally regarded “Passport to College” program that I first crafted as a volunteer citizen activist before my first election in 2008. The program provides outreach, tuition and living support and vital information to foster youth about higher education opportunities.
Open Educational Resources: e-Textbooks
Taxpayers spend a ridiculous $64 million a year (local and state dollars) on K-12 textbooks yet the average age for books in the classroom is ten years old! Textbooks in virtually every Seattle school and statewide are expensive, stale, and academically generic. This session I sponsored and the Legislature passed HB 2337, a bill that helps our state’s 295 school districts easily and affordably access, understand and utilize open source textbooks for one million K-12 students. This high quality, peer reviewed content is based upon Common Core standards and is simple, easy and in most cases free. My hope and expectation is that it will save students and taxpayers tens of millions in the years to come.
Tax Exemptions, Credits and Preferential Rates
This session, I sought to spark a courageous conversation about our state’s lack of fiduciary oversight of the 640 tax preferences, credits and preferential rates. In my view the Legislature has failed to objectively and rigorously examine both the spending and revenue sides of the ledger. Under I-1053, a simple majority of legislators can create a tax exemption yet a 2/3 vote of the 147 legislators to adjust, modify or terminate a tax exemption. I am a party to a legal challenge by the League of EducationVoters to I-1053 because I believe this policy is unconstitutional and assaults the Legislature’s ability to responsibly manage the state’s finances. Among the tax exemption bills I introduced this year, but did not pass:
- HB 2762 would place an expiration date on over 250 B&O and sales tax exemptions that currently lack one, expressly excluding personal exemptions like food and prescription drugs.This legislation would require virtually all exemptions to expire after ten years on a rolling schedule unless reauthorized by the Legislature. It’s ridiculous that today many exemptions are not even forced to prove that they deliver a return on investment for taxpayers. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue but rather a matter of responsible fiscal sense.
- HB 2532 reauthorizes, reforms, and resizes the current B&O high-tech research & development tax credit. The bill maintains the credit for small, early-stage technology companies but asks larger companies with revenues over $25 million a year to contribute most of their credit dollars toward producing college graduates in high-demand science, technology, and research fields at the University of Washington and other state colleges.
Community Capital Projects
Each year the Legislature provides funding to a number of construction projects that preserve and promote arts, culture, commerce, and community. This year I am proud to have worked extremely hard to secure $995,000 for the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) to assist with building renovations, repairs and improvements. The PNA is part of the soul of the 36th District and I look forward to strengthening this important community facility for generations to come.
There is even more information available about the work we have done this session online. Find more details on the state budget and all of the bills I sponsored here. My blog at www.reuvencarlyle36.com remains among the most widely-read site by a legislator in the nation. Please reach out to me anytime and share your thoughts, concerns and priorities. [email protected] or call (206) 216-3184.
Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Legislature.
Your partner in service,