The Hopper

Senate Democrats offer plan to fully implement K-12 funding

Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced a plan to phase in full funding of K-12 education for Washington students and get the state out from under the Supreme Court’s contempt of court ruling.

The plan will meet the needs of Washington’s one million school kids by addressing teacher compensation, reducing the reliance on local levies, shrinking class sizes and establishing a dedicated revenue source that asks the states multi-millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. This is in addition to the all-day kindergarten, school operating costs and K-3 class size reduction that both parties have agreed needs to be funded in this year’s operating budget.

The proposal centers around Sen. Christine Rolfes’ bill to implement full McCleary funding (SB 6104). Among the highlights are a new compensation system for all educational staff and a plan to implement the voter-approved class size reduction initiative.

“A great education for our students is dependent on having great teachers in every classroom,” Rolfes said. “Educator compensation has been the elephant in the McCleary room for a long time – any plan that will meet our obligations to our students and satisfy the court must address it. This is a reasonable and responsible proposal to ensure that as we come to solutions regarding education funding, we don’t stay silent on fundamental issues like compensation.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker is proposing a capital gains tax of the top 1/10th of 1 percent of the wealthiest in the state to begin funding the plan (SB 6102). He also introduced a constitutional amendment that will prevent capital gains levels from dropping below $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a household without a vote of the people (SJR 8206).

Ranker also received a letter signed by over 100 Washingtonians asking that a high-earners capital gains tax be implemented, calling the idea important both “economically and ethically.”

“Many of the wealthiest Washingtonians in our state want to do more and give back to the great state that they love,” Ranker said. “They understand that giving back and asking everyone to do their share makes our state a better place. These people have found success in our state. They want to make our schools stronger so that others can share in that success.”

The final part of the plan addresses the state’s need to take on levy reform (SB 6103). Sen. Jim Hargrove’s plan would return local levies to their intended purpose of paying for extras and ensuring that the state pays for all elements of a basic education.

As K-12 compensation is increased and the state takes on the obligation of compensation, there is a dollar for dollar reduction. For every dollar given to the schools in increased funding, local levy revenue is reduced by one dollar.

“Under this plan more than 98 percent of families in this state will see their property tax reduced or remain untouched,” Hargrove said. “This addresses two critical needs, the Supreme Court’s order and some tax relief for families throughout the state.”

One pager
SB 6104 in depth
Capital Gains Letter

April 15th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Video: Beef Day 2015!

It’s a “Game of T-Bones” as Sen. Brian Hatfield welcomes the Washington Cattlemen’s Association to Olympia for Beef Day 2015.

April 12th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Minority Rules: Republican majority institutes minority rule in attempt to pass partisan budget

April 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|

Sen. Nelson: Parliamentary tricks and phony rules stall budget process

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the conclusion of budget amendments Friday morning:

“Tonight Democrats proposed numerous amendments, and saw one after another struck down.

“Why? That’s a good question. Other than voting ‘no,’ Senate Republicans said virtually nothing through hours and hours of debate.

“Republicans did take one action Thursday. They made a cynical rule change requiring a super majority to pass amendments. This provided them political cover and misinformed the public about the true values of those who are supposed to represent them.

“So a budget that was already in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own gimmicks and fund shifts is now also built upon beliefs crafted for the sake of political gain, not responsible solutions for the people of Washington.”

April 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|

Sen. Nelson: Senate Republican’s ‘prioritize concrete above kids’

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the release of the Senate Republican budget Tuesday:

“Senate Republicans, 20 of whom voted for an $11 billion gas tax increase less than a month ago, today showed an unwillingness to prioritize kids in the same way they prioritize concrete.

“Rather than long-term solutions and dedicated funding for our state’s one million school kids, we saw the same old script – a plan which begs, borrows and steals from all other areas of the budget, relying on gimmicks, debt, cuts to state services and taking money from local governments to make ends meet while asking for nothing from the wealthiest Washingtonians.

“We’ve heard for months from Republicans that we have $3 billion in additional revenue. If that were true, then why are we taking hundreds of millions from infrastructure improvements, cutting the social safety net and underfunding early learning?

“The Supreme Court was clear – we must have dedicated and sustainable funding for education. Instead we have yet another exercise in bumper-sticker policy making and a budget that kicks the can down the road for another year.

“When families or businesses have expenses, they simply can’t charge their way out of trouble and create more debt. This is no way to run a household, a business or a state.”

March 31st, 2015|Uncategorized|

Jayapal: Modest wage raise offers big impacts for Washington families

OLYMPIA – Legislation to raise Washington’s minimum wage to $12 in four years received a public hearing on Monday in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle.

“While the proposal is modest, and the increase is slow and steady, the effect on the 550,000 people in Washington who will benefit from this and are struggling to make ends meet is enormous,” Jayapal said of House Bill 1355. “The reality is, 90 percent of minimum wage earners are adults. They are mothers and fathers, they are millennials and military veterans. These Washingtonians deserve a raise.”

Washington currently has the highest minimum wage in the nation, but at $9.47 per hour it still falls below the national poverty wage – with someone working full time in Washington making less than $20,000 per year. The bill raises Washington’s minimum wage to $10 in 2016 and 50 cents per year through 2019. At $12 in 2019, Washington’s minimum wage would only be about $1.63 higher than what it would be otherwise.

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, HB 1355 will create $7 billion additional income dollars for low-wage workers – money that will quickly recirculate back into Washington’s economy in the form of food, clothing, rent and utilities.

“I was raised by a single mom with two kids, and we could barely get by,” said Nicholas Powell, a waiter in Olympia. “It took me three years at or near minimum wage to move up to a waiting positon. Now with tips, I am able to get by without public assistance for the first time in my life and even go to school part-time. But tips are unreliable. You never know how much you will really earn in a month. Having a reliable paycheck would create a lot more security and stability for me, and I could use the extra money for basics like rent, transportation, food and classes.”

“Washington has the most unfair tax system in the nation,” Jayapal noted. “We are one of just a handful of states where all the wealth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent of earners. Our economy is growing, worker productivity is growing, and there is more wealth in the system – but workers aren’t sharing in that increased wealth. This is unconscionable, and it needs to change. A good start is lifting the floor for low-wage workers by raising the minimum wage.”

Workers from a number of industries, including food preparation and serving, grocery, health care and retail, testified in favor of this and two other bills. One would provide paid sick and safe leave for all Washington workers (HB 1356) and the other would provide equal pay for women (HB 1646).

“I am so grateful that workers and lawmakers had the opportunity to testify on these important bills today, but the proof is in the pudding,” Jayapal added. “These bills deserve to move out of committee for a robust debate and a vote on the floor of the Senate.”

Wednesday is the final day these bills can be voted out of committee before they are no longer viable in the 2015 session.

The hearing can be viewed at

March 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Senate Republicans stand in the way of ‘fair and balanced’ committee rule

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson today proposed a change to Senate rules which would require committee chairs offer equal time to opposing viewpoints.

The rule was voted down by Republicans along party lines.

“Fair and balanced seems like a reasonable mantra to me,” Nelson said. “A pro panel and a con panel whenever possible, that’s how committees must be run. That is not happening and that limits public debate. This is their house and their process. People expect and deserve better.”

The rule is modeled after similar language in House rules. You can view the proposed addition by clicking here.

“My hope was that this rule would change the way some of the committees have been run this year,” Nelson said. “People travel from near and sometimes far to be heard. For too many, their voices have been ignored. Representative government is not supposed to operate this way.

“I’m concerned about sporadically scheduled committee meetings which result in dozens of bills into a single two hour agenda. The Democratic process takes time and people deserve better than its Cliff’s Notes equivalent.

“Committees are at the very heart of representative government. It’s the most direct way people can speak to the policies that will impact their lives. Washingtonians are not being given that chance.”

Below are a few examples from the Commerce & Labor Committee of incidents the rule change was written to fix:

1/30: Person testifying cut off, told “written testimony isn’t compelling”

2/4: Partisan think tank presents in place of non-partisan staff on workers compensation

2/13: Person testifying cut off, told “just get to the bottom line”

2/18: Another person testifying cut short, pushes back


March 25th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats: Oil train bill lacks key safety provisions

OLYMPIA – Following the passage of a bill that falls short on addressing needs related to oil train safety, Sens. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and John McCoy, D-Tulalip, released the following statements:

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County
“Legislators are elected to uphold the public good, and oil trains are a very real threat to that,” Rolfes said. “There have been three derailments and fires of oil-laden train cars in North America just since the first of the month – that is three in just over a week.

“While any movement on addressing this threat  is positive, there is more work to do so we can return to our districts able to say we’ve done all we can to ensure stronger protections for our communities and environment, and increased accountability for oil and rail industries.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island
“I was hoping I could get to ‘Yes’ on this bill, but I didn’t want to go back to my constituents with another study. We’re done studying this issue, we know the damage and destruction an oil train derailment can cause and we must do everything we can to address it. This bill fails to do that.

“This bill doesn’t address the liability issue. If there’s a major derailment or tanker spill in one of our waterways, and the rail company at fault isn’t properly insured, taxpayers are on the hook to pay for cleanup.

“The bill that passed the Senate also ignores safety standards for oil transported on the Columbia River, Greys Harbor and Puget Sound. Millions of gallons of oil is transported through our waterways. A spill would devastate our economy and our environment.”

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip
“I am pleased to see the Senate finally taking action, but the measure we passed today lacks common sense requirements for more disclosure of oil movement and the possibility of tug escorts for oil barges.

“The spike in volatile shipments of crude oil by rail poses new risks in Washington and it’s time we step up to do everything we can to protect our vulnerable communities.”

March 9th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Minimum wage, paid sick leave and the Voting Rights Act are policies Washingtonians demand

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson released the statement below following the State House’s passage of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday:

“Our colleagues in the House continue to pursue ideas that will have a positive and lasting impact on people and communities throughout our state.

“On Tuesday the House voted to raise our state’s minimum wage as well as ensure that moms and dads will no longer have to choose between sick children or a paycheck. These fantastic policies will have lasting impacts on hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians.

“The message from the House was clear – ‘we stand on the side of working families.’

“Now, by passing the Washington Voting Rights Act, the House has sent another clear message – ‘we stand on the side of fairness and on the right side of history.’

“I hope the Senate will follow this example. I was disappointed that when presented with an opportunity to pass the Senate’s version of the VRA on Wednesday, Republicans stood in the way.

“The minimum wage, paid sick leave and now the Voting Rights Act are policies people throughout our state demand.

“I’m calling on the Republican-controlled Senate to take up these critical matters so that this body, too, can have a hand in making things better for millions of Washingtonians.”


March 5th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Sen. Sharon Nelson applauds State House for helping close the wage gap

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson released the statement below Tuesday following the State House’s passage of a measure to raise Washington’s minimum wage:

“I applaud the leadership of our colleagues in the House of Representatives for passing a bill today that will benefit hundreds of thousands of working Washingtonians.

“The economy is improving, but not for everyone. This important piece of legislation represents a critical component of the remedy for income inequality.

“This is in stark contrast to the Republican-controlled Senate. While the House works to make life better for more of our friends and neighbors, Republicans continue to work against them. Republican-sponsored bills that create sub-minimum wages, roll back protections for sick or injured working people and legislation to make it difficult for working folks to have a say in wages and working conditions are all being considered in the Senate.

“These common sense ideas coming over from the House will make life better for working families and benefit our entire economy – including those at the very top. These ideas must have their day in the Senate to create an economy that benefits everyone, not just a few.

“There’s no starker contrast between Democrats and Republicans than on these issues. At the same time Democrats took action to make things better for working families, Republicans continue to promote policies that make the gap between the rich and the rest of us even wider.”

March 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|