7 05, 2019

Carlyle, Tarleton welcome governor’s signature on climate bills

May 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|

SEATTLE – Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) and Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Ballard) today welcomed Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature on a sweeping package of legislation that takes meaningful action on climate change and will reduce Washington’s carbon footprint.

The bills commit Washington to 100-percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources like wind, hydro and solar polar (Senate Bill 5116), a centerpiece of Inslee’s climate action agenda. They also aggressively electrify our transportation infrastructure (House Bill 2042), create incentives to build ultra-new efficient buildings (HB 1257), adopt new minimum appliance efficiency standards (HB 1444) and ban products containing super-pollutants, like hydrofluorocarbons (HB 1112).

“As a husband, father and citizen legislator, it is a personal and professional honor to have played a role in helping to pass the most substantive environmental agenda in a generation,” said Carlyle, who chairs the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee and who sponsored SB 5116. “Our work this year goes beyond traditional political clichés and embraces a bold climate action agenda that will make a meaningful difference in our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s quality of life.

“This year we hit stand-up double after stand-up double, and moved our team around the bases by working together. Our dream of reaching Paris Accord-level carbon reductions in the years to come is no longer a fantasy, but a serious aspiration that is within our reach.”

Tarleton, who chairs the House Finance Committee and who sponsored House companion legislation to the clean energy bill, commented: “Today we are celebrating a strong ground game that brought together communities from all over this state, from utility partners, industry partners, environmental champions, labor leaders, communities of color, many of you here today. When we move beyond coal and embrace clean energy sources, we get a win not only for Washington State, not only for the western states, but for the whole country and the world.”

Carlyle and Tarleton joined Inslee and others today at a bill-signing ceremony at the Rainier Vista Neighborhood House in Seattle.

3 05, 2019

Billig: Frank Chopp is a public servant to his core

May 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig released the statement below following Frank Chopp’s resignation as Speaker of the House on Friday:

“Frank Chopp is a public servant to his core. Thousands of kids have health care because of Frank Chopp. Washington’s working families have better wages because of Frank Chopp. The safety net is stronger because of Frank Chopp.

“It’s truly difficult to imagine the legislature without Frank Chopp as Speaker of the House. His decades of service have left an indelible mark on our state.”

29 04, 2019

Majority Leader: A lot to be proud of in a historic session

April 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) released this statement following the adjournment of the 2019 legislative session, the first 105-day session to end on time since 2009 and the second year in a row the Legislature has adjourned as scheduled:

“In the two years since Democrats retook control of the Senate, we have worked hard to pass legislation that puts people first and ensures more people have access to a quality education, health care, clean air and water and create an overall better quality of life.

“We finished our work on time. We made sure diverse voices were heard throughout the legislative session. And we will continue to ensure every Washingtonian has an opportunity to succeed.

“This year we made historic investments in health care, behavioral health, higher education and the environment — and kept our promise to Washington’s 1.1 million students through additional investments in schools in every corner of our state.

“We committed our state to a path toward 100% clean energy, adopted the nation’s first public health care option, and became the first state to adopt publicly-funded long-term care.”

“We tackled criminal justice reform, election transparency and access, workers rights, the rights of immigrants, and public safety.

“For the first time since I’ve been in the Legislature, we made meaningful reforms to our state’s broken tax structure, ensuring that new investments in programs that benefit all Washingtonians won’t be disproportionately paid for by low- and middle income families.

“We made meaningful steps to ensure that the wealthiest Washingtonians start paying their fair share, but I will be the first to say we still have miles ago to fix our broken tax code.

“I am so proud of our team and the work we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished for each and every Washingtonian.”

29 04, 2019

Legislature passes ‘Putting People First’ state operating budget

April 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Legislature passed a 2019-21 operating budget plan and revenue plan on Sunday, making critical investments in behavioral health, affordable housing, education, and the environment.

“This is a responsible and optimistic budget that includes broad investments to meet critical needs across our state. We are transforming our behavioral health system and making historic investments in education, which is the bedrock of our communities,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“This is what putting people first looks like,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re making significant investments in special education and behavioral health, helping families stay in their homes and out of poverty, and expanding college access and opportunity to more families across Washington.”

Highlights of the $52.4 billion two-year operating budget include:

Behavioral Health: The two-year budget will make significant investments in continued efforts to reform and improve the state behavioral health system.

  • $47 million to expand community behavioral health beds and services.
  • $92 million in this biennium to ensure the stability of state hospitals and the safety of patients and staff.
  • $74 million in this biennium to comply with the Trueblood court ruling.

Affordable Housing: In addition to the state capital budget, the state operating budget makes key investments in housing programs and services.

  • $15 million focused on permanent supportive housing and youth homelessness.
  • $14.5 million for the Housing and Essential Needs Program, which helps people with disabilities who are struggling to find or maintain housing.

Education: This budget fulfills the bipartisan promise made by the Legislature to fund health care coverage for school employees through the School Employee Benefits Board (SEBB) program. This investment will cost $328 million in this budget and $837 million over four years.

  • $155 million for additional special education funding ($294 million over four years).
  • $61 million for additional levy assistance for areas with low property values.
  • $12 million for paraeducator training.
  • $2.5 million additional funding for student mental health and safety.

Workforce Education InvestmentCreates a new Washington College Grant to make public college tuition-free in Washington state for families earning less than $50,000 per year, with partial scholarships for families up to state’s median income, and significantly invests in community colleges.

It addresses demand through targeted investments by bringing together students, parents, higher education institutions, workers, and businesses. To pay for the investments, the Legislature increased B&O rates on businesses that rely on a highly-educated workforce.

  • Expands access to the Washington College Grant (formerly the State Need Grant).
  • Makes career pathways a priority by expanding programs that guide students through community and technical colleges or apprenticeships and increases counseling.
  • Increases capacity at the public community and technical colleges and four-year institutions for high-demand programs, such as computer science, engineering, nursing, and other high-demand fields.

Other investments:

  • $35 million to expand Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) slots and rate increases.
  • $62 million for rate increases for community residential services providers (long-term and developmental disabilities care).
  • $31 million to improve habitat and protect Orcas.
  • $9 million to eliminate the backlog in testing sexual assault kits.
  • $24 million in state general funds to increase our wildfire response and address natural disasters.
  • $4.5 million to expand rural broadband.

While the state economy has resulted in additional revenue over the current two-year budget, existing expenses have outpaced that revenue growth. The state faces an additional $5.8 billion in expenses over the last two-year budget, most of which ($3.9 billion) comes from the bipartisan education funding agreement reached in 2017.

The state’s revenue growth over that same time was $4.5 billion. Therefore new revenue was needed to make critical investments in behavioral health, housing, higher education, and the environment.

Revenue is added by changing the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) rates for property sales over $1.5 million. Washington’s current REET rate is a flat rate regardless of the value of the transaction.

The Progressive Real Estate Excise Tax proposal would result in more than 80% of real estate sellers receiving a tax cut while another 18% would see no change in the rate. The remaining sellers, those selling real estate valued at $1.5 million or higher, would see a rate increase.

The budget includes a business and occupations tax increase on the very largest and most profitable global banks. Other revenue includes an increase in the B&O rate for firms that provide international investments services.

28 04, 2019

Transportation budget heads to governor

April 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Senate passed the Transportation budget Sunday with unanimous support.

ESHB 1160 will now head to the Governor for his signature.

“This budget addresses the transportation needs of our state,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, chair of the Senate Transportation committee. “This was a good, bipartisan effort to keep our promises and move our state forward.”

There are several highlights and new investments made as part of the $9.8 billion, two year plan including the continued delivery of projects first adopted as part of the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package.

New investments include a $35 million investment in the creation of a project office and pre-design work to continue the work for the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River. This will begin the reevaluation of scope, schedule, and budget for a reinvigorated bi-state effort.

Additional investments include providing $35 million in savings and $20 million in toll revenue to advance the design and complete right-of-way acquisition for the I-405 north end completion. This along with the funding provided by SB 5825, will be sufficient to complete this project. Several projects had funding advanced including $40 million for the SR 167/SR 509 Puget Sound Gateway project and $17 million for I-90 Snoqualmie Pass.

The Department of Transportation and the City of Tacoma are partnering in clean-up efforts to address the clearing of debris, hazardous material and implementing safety improvements along state highways within Tacoma city limits. This combined investment of $1.015 million will improve public health and safety and remove debris from right-of-ways.

Ferry investments include providing for the start of building a new 144-car hybrid electric vessel as well as the conversion of one existing ferry. The ferries division was provided $495,000 for the planning work needed to prepare for hybrid-electric vessel terminal charging investments. The Colman Dock project in Seattle and the Mukilteo terminal also received additional funding to keep those projects moving forward. Also included is $160,000 for a vessel noise reduction study aimed at helping protect the endangered southern resident orcas.

The Commute Trip Reduction program received a $1 million investment for a new first/last mile transportation demand management pilot program and $1 million for the continuation of a small businesses transit pass incentive.

With continued issues with maintaining a stable Washington State Patrol force $4.2 million was funded for a third cadet class and a position was funded for a recruitment and retention captain position.

“I’m proud of the bipartisan cooperation and outcome of this budget,” Hobbs said. “This is a good budget, but it is a bare-bones budget. Our state has many transportation needs and lack the means to meet them. Fish culverts, replacement of the I-5 bridge in Vancouver, the US 2 Trestle in Snohomish County and many other projects large and small across the state.”

28 04, 2019

Senate’s capital budget proposes life-changing investments in infrastructure

April 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|

The Washington State Senate today approved a two-year capital budget that would invest in priority infrastructure across the state in the areas of behavioral health, affordable housing, education and the environment.

The budget passed with a unanimous vote.

“The bipartisan support of this budget highlights the investments it makes on behalf of all Washingtonians,” said Sen. David Frockt, vice chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and the Senate’s lead capital budget writer. “The capital budget supports our schools, improvements to our behavioral health system, the environment, and other values that are so key to the Washington way of life.”

The budget invests $120 million in community based behavioral health investments, helping patients transition to care in their own communities.

It also includes $33.2 million for predesign, planning and design of a new, 150-bed behavioral health teaching facility at the University of Washington Medical Center. This project has broad bipartisan support and is seen as a critical component of Washington’s long-term strategy to create a new paradigm for mental health treatment in Washington State. 

“Washington is transitioning to a behavioral health system that helps and protects our most vulnerable neighbors, and this budget supports that,” Frockt said. “Our investment in the Housing Trust Fund compliments that investment — particularly a $35 million investment in housing with behavioral health supports.”

The budget includes $175 million in affordable housing loans and grants through the Housing Trust Fund. Allocations within the Housing Trust Fund include:

  • $10 million for high-quality modular housing to transition people out of homelessness quickly.
  • $35 million for supportive housing and case management services for people living with behavioral health disorders.
  • $10 million for competitively awarded grants for state matches on private contributions to fund affordable housing
  • $10 million for housing preservation grants
  • $5 million for housing veterans
  • $5 million for housing to serve people with disabilities

The capital budget invests about $148.4 million in toxics cleanup, prevention and stormwater assistance to local governments.

Additional environmental investments would prevent wildfires and help the orca population. Forest hazard reduction would receive $14.2 million. The budget contains funding spread across a variety of projects that would aid orca recovery, including habitat restoration.

The $63 million invested in state parks would expand Washingtonians’ options for outdoor recreation. About $3 million of that funding would go to a new, full-service Nisqually State Park near Eatonville. About $35.4 million would fund park maintenance.

An additional $85 million would fund outdoor recreation projects though Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants.

The budget would invest about $1.1 billion in K-12 education, with about $1.04 billion dedicated to the School Construction Assistance Program. About $23 million would benefit distressed schools, and $20 million would fund small district modernization grants.

The state’s higher education system would receive $974 million.

25 04, 2019

Rolfes, Ormsby announce tentative deal on 2019-21 operating budget

April 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following joint statement announcing a tentative agreement on the 2019-21 Operating Budget:

“We have reached a tentative budget agreement between the two chambers and look forward to finishing our work on a final budget by the end of the legislative session on Sunday. We will continue to work with our fiscal teams in the Legislature to complete final details on a responsible budget that puts people first and meets the pressing needs of our state.”

Once details are finalized, Senate and House budget leaders anticipate releasing the final budget on Saturday.

11 04, 2019

House passes Bill committing Washington to 100-percent clean energy

April 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – A historic bill to commit Washington to 100-percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources took another step forward today following passage by the Washington House of Representatives.

Representatives voted 56-42 in favor of Senate Bill 5116, a centerpiece of Gov. Jay Inslee’s 2019 agenda to take meaningful action on climate change and reduce Washington’s carbon footprint.

Sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) and in House companion legislation by Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Ballard), the bill requires all electric utilities in Washington to transition to a 100-percent, carbon-neutral electricity supply by 2030 and to 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.

“It’s time to move past the era of carbon into the next generation with modern, 21st-century energy systems using integrated wind, hydro and solar power,” said Carlyle, who chairs the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee. “At a time when the federal government has functionally imploded on addressing climate change, the states are now taking the lead and moving forward on climate action.”

“Moving away from fossil fuels has to start somewhere, so why not here?” asked Tarleton, who chairs the House Finance Committee. “Washington has the courage to build a 21st century economy beyond coal, beyond fossil fuels, to maintain and build a quality of life for generations to come. Thank you to Sen. Carlyle and my colleagues for having the courage to make this choice.”

“We are rightly proud of how clean Washington’s electricity already is,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle), chair of the House Environment & Energy Committee. “This landmark bill will take Washington the rest of the way there to 100 percent clean electricity, ensure reliability and lay the foundation for continued pollution reductions throughout our whole economy.”

Senate Bill 5116 would make Washington one of the first states in the nation to commit broadly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity while adopting a precise action plan to do so. It is also the most extensive measure on climate action that Washington’s Legislature has adopted since 2008, when it committed the state to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.

Electricity remains the largest source of carbon emissions worldwide and is the third-highest emitting sector in Washington, after transportation and buildings.

The Senate approved the bill last month. The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of amendments added by the House before it can go to the governor.

4 04, 2019

Two-year operating budget approved by Senate

April 4th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate today approved a $52.2 billion state operating budget to fund vital state services, including targeted support for the state’s behavioral health system, K-12 special education, higher education, and the environment.

Because the Senate amended ESHB 1109 before passing it, budget writers from the Senate and House must now begin a conference process to negotiate the differences in the versions that passed each chamber and pass a final operating budget before the end of the legislative session on April 28.

More than half of the state budget pays for K-12 education, honoring commitments made in 2017 to increase basic education funding. A new investment of $283 million is dedicated to improving behavioral health services over the next two years.

“This is a smart budget that puts people first and fulfills commitments to quality education and a more effective behavioral health system,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and its chief budget writer. “We deepen our commitment to quality early learning, give more kids a chance at college, invest in our state’s vital workforce, and address threats to our health and environment. This budget continues our commitment to putting people first.”

The budget represents a $4.5 billion increase in K-12 education spending above the last biennial budget, including a $937 million increase for special education.

Other budget highlights include the funding of Gov. Inslee’s climate initiatives and orca whale protection, investments to address housing needs and homelessness, expansion of college scholarship programs, improving the foster care system, police de-escalation training, expanded access to early learning, and funding the sexual assault kit backlog at the Washington State Patrol.

Click here for Senate Operating Budget details

Senate Democrats are proposing roughly $518 million in new revenue to pay for many of the new investments. The proposal calls for changes to make the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) more fair and the closure or reduction of three preferential tax rates: non-resident sales tax, prescription drug resellers, and travel agents. The budget also includes a tax increase on property, auto and casualty insurance, from 2 percent to 2.52 percent, to establish a dedicated account to fund the growing cost of wildfire prevention and suppression.

“Our economy is leading the nation is several categories, but our upside-down tax structure places a disproportionate burden on middle-class individuals. Where more revenue is needed to address our state’s growing needs, the budget strategy is careful not to increase the costs to working families,” Rolfes said.

“Both the Senate and House proposals focus on creating safe, healthy communities where people have access to quality education, affordable housing, and economic opportunity,” Rolfes said. “I look forward to working with the House to finish our work and pass a final 2019-21 budget before the session ends on April 28.”

4 04, 2019

Senate budget funds study of state production of generic drugs

April 4th, 2019|Uncategorized|

The operating budget passed today by the Senate includes $20,000 to fund a study of the feasibility of the state producing certain generic drugs.

“One of the biggest concerns in many households today is the high cost of prescription drugs,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who inserted the proviso in the budget. “This is an opportunity to lower the cost of some essential drugs significantly.”

Van De Wege’s proviso would enable the state Department of Health to research the feasibility of the state’s ability to produce generic drugs, and report its finding to the Legislature by Dec. 1.

“This could have a huge impact on prescription drug prices, while also addressing shortages of a number of critical drugs,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), who helped draft the proviso. “Many generic drugs are expensive because of the limited number of companies that produce a particular drug. Production by the state might lead to lower prices simply by increasing competition and options for consumers.”

Insulin is a good example, Van De Wege said, because there is still no generic version available even though there have been no significant improvements to the drug, yet prices have tripled over the past decade.

“Not only would a generic version cost less, a generic version produced by the state would cost even less than that because, unlike pharmaceutical companies, the state doesn’t have to turn a profit,” Van De Wege said. “Insulin has been around for nearly 100 years, but instead of getting less expensive, prices keep going up at a rate higher than inflation. That is unjustifiable and unacceptable.”

In 2016, Washington State Attorney Gen. Bob Ferguson joined several other states in filing a lawsuit against the generic drug industry over anti-competitive behavior including price fixing and market rigging. The lawsuit has since grown to cover 16 companies and 300 drugs.

“The Government Accountability Office reported to Congress in 2016 that the prices of 300 generic drugs were increased by more than 100 percent in the year 2015 alone,” Keiser said. “We can stand pat and just keep paying higher and higher prices, or we can take things into our own hands at the state level.”