(360) 786-7608|mark.mullet@leg.wa.gov

E-News

E News – Meeting our duty to fund K-12 education

February 6th, 2018|

Dear friends and neighbors,

As many of you know, The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the state has unconstitutionally left it to local school districts, through local levies, to cover much of the cost of a basic education.

Even though some school districts had sufficient funding when local levies were accounted for, the court said those levies do not qualify as “reliable sources” of funding under the state constitution. As a result, Democrats and Republicans came together last year to support a compromise bill to fund education at the state level. It essentially increased the state property tax rates and reduced local levy rates.

However, the court ruled in November that the changes come a year too late. Instead, the court said, they need to be made by Sept. 1, meaning that the Legislature would need to dedicate another $1 billion to education funding this year.

If the Legislature were to provide local districts with an additional $1 billion, it would amount to a double dipping of taxpayer money. I don’t think it’s right for taxpayers to get hit with high local levies and a new statewide property tax increase and have schools get an additional $1 billion on top of those already high taxes. If the state can muster up $1 billion in this budget, it should be going to tax relief.

In order to comply with the court’s latest ruling, I introduced Senate Bill 6525. It would give districts that meet certain budget, transparency and accounting requirements state funding for higher salaries starting this fall. In exchange, those districts would be required to reduce local levies to offset the amount received. Taxpayers would see some relief on their 2018 property tax bills and school districts’ annual budgets would remain consistent, rather than spiking tax rates in the 2018-19 school year before sharply declining.

A bipartisan mix of 26 senators – more than enough to pass the bill if it went for a vote – have signed on as co-sponsors.

Best regards,

E News – Making higher education more affordable

January 31st, 2018|

Dear friends and neighbors,

As a parent and small business owner, I know the importance of preparing our children for the future and the essential role of higher education in that process. I also know how expensive and challenging this can be for middle-class households.

That’s why I sponsored two bills this legislative session to help make higher education more affordable and to give families the flexibility they need to make the choices about preparing and saving for higher education that work best for them.

Shared returns for holders of GET units

Senate Bill 6087 would make changes to Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program to allow holders of GET accounts to directly share in investment gains that the program experienced in recent years.

The GET program allows families to purchase the cost of college tuition at today’s prices to ensure families can afford college even when tuition increases in the future. The state then invests those funds so they can afford to cover the cost of college tuition for GET holders when their kids start college. The value of a GET unit has not changed in the past six years because the state has frozen tuition.

Currently, 100 GET units is equal to $10,386, enough to send a student to college for a year. However, the state currently has a surplus in the GET investment fund that would mean 100 GET credits is worth $14,400 or an extra 40 GET units. Under this bill GET account holders would have six months to redeem units for what they are actually worth and to roll that amount into Washington’s new 529 college savings program, which works like a 401(k) retirement-savings plan.

Put another way, we can offer families in our state that invested in GET a 40 percent return on the money they invested. Additionally, it likely won’t cost the state a dime.

College credits for international baccalaureate exams

Senate Bill 5917 would require higher education institutions to establish a policy for granting college credit to students who receive passing grades on international baccalaureate exams.

Like the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, the International Baccalaureate Program is a great way for high school students to obtain college credits and accelerated placement in college, saving themselves and their families time and money in pursuing a degree.

But even someone with a PhD in math would be hard pressed to figure out which schools accept those credits or how much, given that the minimum score needed to earn credit can vary from school to school and, sometimes, even from program to program within an institution.

Senate Bill 5917 helps ensure that a student who passes an IB exam will receive college credit. It also forces the public universities to create an easy to understand system for high school students explaining which IB classes will count for a course equivalent credit. For example, passing an IB course in Biology should mean you don’t have to retake Biology in college.

Both bills will be under consideration in the coming weeks. It’s my hope that both will help students pursuing higher education and their families save time and money and, ultimately, help make higher education more affordable for middle-class households in our district and across our state.

Best regards,

E News – State construction budget approved

January 23rd, 2018|

Dear friends and neighbors,

As your senator, my goal is to make sure that our community benefits from the hard-earned tax dollars you send to Olympia. I spend every day of the Legislative Session explaining the needs of our community to my fellow elected officials and building relationships so we can bring that money back where it came from.

Last week, lawmakers in Olympia took a major step forward, passing a long-overdue $4.2 billion construction budget funding vital infrastructure projects around the state like public schools, colleges and universities, parks and environmental projects.

I’m extremely pleased that every city in our local community has something to look forward to.

Carnation gains state funds to revitalize downtown and create a vibrant business district so residents can access small business services in their own community, and to attract tourists visiting Remlinger Farms to drive the extra two minutes to Carnation and support our local merchants;

Black Diamond gains funds to cover the cost of rebuilding Black Diamond Elementary School;

Maple Valley gains funds to construct a new memorial honoring our veterans and their service;

Issaquah gains funds to build a bridge over the creek in Confluence Park;

North Bend gains funds to rehabilitate the historic Tollgate Farmhouse;

Falls City gains funds to upgrade wastewater infrastructure; and

Snoqualmie gains funds to enhance the Northwest Railway Museum.

At a regional level, we provided an additional $5.3 million in state funds to continue our quest to make Lake Sammamish State Park a crown jewel of the Washington State Parks system.

I’m ecstatic about this construction budget because it makes sure that our hard-earned tax dollars are used for projects in our community, as opposed to subsidizing projects in other areas of the state.

Now that we have passed the budget, we will be shifting our focus to identifying projects to include in a 2018 supplemental construction budget and building bipartisan support so that our community gets its fair share of support and investment.

Best regards,

E News – 2018 Legislative session

January 18th, 2018|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Serving in the majority in the Washington Senate this Legislative Session presents a unique opportunity to promote common-sense policies to benefit our communities in the 5th Legislative District as well as people across the state. During this year’s short, 60-day session, I plan to focus on three such measures.

Senate Bill 6018 eliminates the fees credit bureaus charge customers to freeze their credit reports to protect their personal information. This bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions & Insurance earlier this week. It will soon move to the Senate floor for a vote of the whole Senate.

Senate Bill 6087 would allow holders of Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) accounts to directly share in investment gains in the program in recent years. This bill would give people six months to redeem GET units for their actual cash value (35 percent more than current value) and roll that amount into Washington’s new 529-college savings program.

I have been working for months as a key negotiator on passing a long-delayed $4.2 billion Capital Budget. Senate Democrats made passage of this badly needed and long-overdue budget our top priority in the opening days of session, and I am optimistic that we will be able to pass it in the next few days.

This session, I am now the Chair of the Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, presiding over meetings to consider legislation on insurance company practices, rates and solvency; credit unions; consumer credit and lending; securities and investments; and landlord-tenant and housing issues.

In addition to the Education and Health Care committees that I sit on, I am a new member of the powerful Ways & Means Committee that deals with budget and spending issues.

This session, I am now the Chair of the Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, presiding over meetings to consider legislation on insurance company practices, rates and solvency; credit unions; consumer credit and lending; securities and investments; and landlord-tenant and housing issues.

In addition to the Education and Health Care committees that I sit on, I am a new member of the powerful Ways & Means Committee that deals with budget and spending issues.

Despite the challenges of a short 60-day session, I am mindful of the incredible potential for action that it presents and the profound duty to use that power responsibly. As I do so, I pledge to always put you and our communities’ needs first.

Best regards,

E News- See you on the trail!

November 17th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Often in my newsletters, I inform you of community improvement projects soon to come or still pending funding. Today I am happy to report that one of these projects has completed the trip from idea to reality.

Earlier this month, contractors finished paving the access road to the High Point trailhead at Tiger Mountain. They also added new striping to the road and improved the previously poorly marked car stalls. This is a major upgrade to the previous access point which was riddled with potholes and limited accessibility.

During the 2015 legislative session, I secured funding in the capital budget for this project and I am proud to see it finally completed.

Our district is blessed with one of the most beautiful natural environments in the state. During the 2018 legislative session, I will continue to fight to secure funding for these types of quality-of-life improvements to maintain and expand our ability to enjoy our region’s natural beauty. See you on the trail!

New majority, new responsibilities

Democrats gained a one-seat majority in the Senate after winning a special election in the 45th Legislative District. As a result, I will shift leadership roles and become the chair of the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee. Previously, I served as the lead Democrat. Now, as the chair, I will direct the agenda and guide the policy for this committee.

Additionally, I will continue to serve on the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education and Health Care committees, and I’ve gained a new position on the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Thank you for your engagement,

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E News- Budget passed, shutdown avoided

July 5th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

After months of hard work and intense negotiations, we have finally passed an operating budget and solution to our K-12 funding crisis. In the end, our final product is the result of compromise. There are items in the budget that I agree with and items that are hard to swallow. This is the nature of compromise and the reality of governing in our split Legislature.

Faced with a state Supreme Court ruling that Washington was not adequately funding K-12 schools, the Legislature was tasked with coming up with a funding plan by the end of this session. In response, we passed a bill late Friday that will fully fund our schools primarily using a new statewide property tax.

Earlier this session, I argued for a K-12 funding solution that relied primarily on local control and keeping local tax dollars local. Even though the bill we passed tonight does not reflect my preference, it nevertheless sends a significant amount of additional funding to the school districts in our community and allows local districts to continue to pass levies for additional funds to support extracurricular programs. In fact, our school districts are in the top tier of funds allocated by the state.

I am also pleased with the policy and reforms embedded into the K-12 bill. It funds programs aimed at closing the opportunity gap and improves teacher compensation. It also creates a new school employee health care plan that is fully funded. As a result, teachers with children will be able to get coverage for their entire family without breaking the bank.

Even though I voted in support of the K-12 bill, I did not vote in favor of operating budget – the budget that pays for the day-to-day operations of the state. I strongly believe that it is not sustainable in the in the long run because it relies too deeply on accounting gimmicks. It also unwisely sweeps funding out of one of our state’s greatest job-creating and economic development program – the Public Works Trust Fund, which greatly benefits local communities throughout Washington state.

That said, our work in Olympia is not entirely done. We have yet to come to an agreement on the Capital Budget or a resolution to the Hirst water ruling. Stay tuned for more updates on our progress.

Thank you for your engagement,

E News- Town hall meetings and college savings options

April 28th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Don’t forget, this weekend I am hosting two town hall meetings. I hope you will join me for a productive and informative discussion about this year’s legislative session.

 

Tahoma School District Central Services

Saturday, April 29, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

25720 Maple Valley/Black Diamond Road SE

Maple Valley

 

Eagle Room at Issaquah Town Hall

Saturday, April 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

130 E Sunset Way

Issaquah

 

Getting the most bang for your buck when saving for college

As a result of the Legislature lowering college tuition rates last year and the financial markets reaching record highs, the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program – one of Washington’s college savings options – is now operating with a roughly $600 million surplus.

Currently, GET credits are valued at $117 per credit in tuition value. However, because of the surge in the markets, those credits are worth about $140 dollars in cash value. I believe that GET holders should be able to take advantage of the increased value of their investments.

I sponsored Senate Bill 5923 to allow GET credit holders to decide if they want to roll the full cash value of their GET credits into the new 529-college savings plan scheduled to open sometime this summer.

Ultimately, this is all about enhancing opportunities for families to save for their children’s futures. By creating an incentive for people to sign up for the 529 plan, we make that program viable. In the meantime, GET will continue to function as yet another reliable option for saving for college.

The bill has garnered bipartisan support and I am hopeful it gains traction during the special session.

Click here to read an article in the Seattle Times about my bill.

Thank you for your engagement,

E News- Session ends with work left to be done

April 21st, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Sunday marks the final day of the regularly scheduled 2017 legislative session. While I am disappointed that we are once again headed for a special session, my focus so far has been to introduce and pass legislation to help our district and our state. Those efforts succeeded in:

  • Accelerating the timing and funding for the development of a new interchange at State Route 18 and Interstate 90. The project was initially set to begin in 2023 but with these proposed changes, it will begin this year. Moving the timing up on this project was my top priority this session.
  • Making it easier for high school students who take AP classes to get college credit for their work. By establishing a standard AP score requirement for all state institutions of higher learning, we will make the application process easier to navigate so students can choose the college that best meets their academic needs without the fear of their hard-earned AP credits going to waste.
  • Strengthening the small business retirement marketplace I helped establish that will offer no-cost savings plans to make it easier for employees to save for retirement.

During the special session, I will continue to fight hard for the downtown revitalization project for Carnation, extra state support for the replacement of the old and undersized Black Diamond Elementary School with a new, state-of-the-art building, and negotiating a moderate solution to our K-12 funding crisis.

The Legislature has gone into a special session four out of the five years I have represented you in the Senate. As I have done every other time we have gone into a special session, I will refuse my per diem. I strongly believe that we should not be paid by your hard-earned tax dollars for not being able to do our job on time.

We are in this situation because budget negotiations have stalled. As one of the most moderate members in the Legislature, I see this problem as an opportunity to find middle ground. After all, compromise often results in policy that best balances the needs of all Washingtonians.

Thank you for your engagement,

 

E News- Town Hall Meetings on April 29

April 12th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Are you interested in how we are planning to fully-fund K-12 education or any other issue before the Legislature this year? If so, I hope you can join me Saturday, April 29 at one of my town hall meetings.

Town halls provide an open forum where I can hear directly from you about the issues that matter to you most and answer your questions.

Town hall locations and times:

Tahoma School District Central Services

Saturday, April 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

25720 Maple Valley/Black Diamond Road SE

Maple Valley

 

Eagle Room at Issaquah Town Hall

Saturday, April 29 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

130 E Sunset Way

Issaquah

 

I hope to you see you then and thank you for your engagement,

E News- Civic engagement works!

April 6th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

I’ve come to discover that the best ideas for legislation often come from constituents. Throughout my legislative career, I have enjoyed collaborating with advocates, small business owners and parents from the 5th Legislative District on legislation important to them and our community.

In 2013, a local mom and constituent, Sally Porter, brought to my attention the need for schools to have EpiPens available in case a student suffers a severe allergic reaction. We got right to work on a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe epinephrine to schools in case of emergencies. The bill passed and it was awesome to stand alongside Sally and her son Charlie as the governor signed it into law.

Bonnie Anderson and Diane Weinstein of Issaquah came up with legislation that would direct the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife to establish a pilot program to recycle fishing line at local parks. In the last year alone, over 100 PVC tubes have been installed at fishing areas to collect old lines, saving miles and miles of line from entangling wildlife.

Last session, Joe and Linda Grez from North Bend, the owners of PropEle Electric Boat Motors, inspired legislation to allow people to use low-power electric boat motors without having to go through the hassle of registering their vessels.

Do you have an idea for a bill? If so, contact me soon. I am beginning to put together my legislative priorities for next session. The sooner you share your idea, the sooner we can get started turning that idea into legislation.

Thank you for your engagement,