Nelson banner 2017

Note from Sharon banner

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Budgets show our true values, and the priorities advocated for by the two parties in the budget this year are clear: Democrats committed to fully funding schools and protecting the safety net, Republicans committed to a statewide property tax. In a way both parties got what they were after when the budget passed late last week – a Democratic budget with Republican funding.

In this newsletter I will share with you some details of both the $43.7 billion state operating budget – which I voted for – and the education funding bill, which I unfortunately could not vote for.

Despite the challenges of the session there is undoubtedly a great amount of good that will come from the work done these past months. I am extremely disappointed by the way our schools are funded, but I am encouraged to know that amply funding public education is the best investment we can make in our state’s future. We live to fight another day, and I will not give up working to make our state more affordable and fair for all Washingtonians.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update and stay in touch.

Take care,

Signature

Captiol in the evening

A Democratic budget with Republican taxes

Budget highlights include:

  • Additional funding for a number of essential programs that help struggling families, including Working Connections Childcare (which helps low-income parents have affordable care for their children) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Additional funding for mental health and homelessness services.
  • More funding for early childhood education
  • A new department that will better serve foster kids and other vulnerable children and families in our state.

Democratic negotiators were also able to beat back many damaging proposals put forward by Republicans, including devastating cuts to essential services, programs that help homeless youth, veterans and the elderly, and a significant cut to family planning.

I voted for the budget because it reflects the values we hold here in the 34th Legislative District – those of good government and protecting the vulnerable.

School kids

Yes for education, no for regressive funding

I am in strong support of the vast majority of the policy included in the education funding bill, as well as the $7.3 billion of new revenue that will go into Washington schools over the next four years. Unfortunately, I had to vote against it because of the reliance on revenue from a Republican property tax that hits communities like ours especially hard.

Numerous progressive revenue options proposed by Democrats, including a capital gains tax on the sale of high-value stocks and bonds and a progressive real estate excise tax, were flatly refused by Republicans. We managed to close several tax loopholes, including on bottled water, big oil and the out-of-state internet sales tax. But in a state that has the most unfair tax system in the nation these steps forward were simply not enough.

Despite my no vote, the education bill did pass.

Budget graphic

Here are some key things to know:

  • Our district will not receive less funding. Vashon Island School District will get an estimated 33% increase in state funding over the 2016-17 school year by full phase-in of the bill in 2021.
  • High cost-of-living districts, like Vashon, will receive “regionalized” pay. That means base salaries for school staff are allocated at a higher rate.
  • Local levies are still allowed for enhancements to basic education, and changes to levies do not take effect until 2019.
  • More money will go into our schools, but we will see an increase in property taxes. I encourage you to go to the Department of Revenue website as there are a number of property tax reductions and exemptions you may qualify for (here).
Mom and kid

Paid Family and Medical Leave passes!

At the end of session the Legislature passed the nation’s strongest Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Washington is now the 5th state in the nation to pass such a program, but this bill – supported by business, labor and family advocates – will likely serve as a model for other states looking to pass similar legislation. Senate Bill 5975 is a huge win for new parents and those caring for elderly family members.

PFML wins graphic

PFML benefits graphic

Graduation

High-stakes testing

The Legislature also passed a bill to address high-stakes testing for high school seniors that ensures thousands of hard-working students graduate.

House Bill 2224 delays the use of the state science test as a graduation requirement until the graduating class of 2021 (retroactively applies to class of 2017), and provides an appeal process for graduates of 2014-2018 who failed to pass math or English assessments.

Stop sign Capitol

What is the hold up?

Like many of you, I am frustrated at how long the session is taking and how little public scrutiny was allowed before the final vote on the budget.

Because Senate Republicans refused to come to the negotiating table for two months, they brought our state to the brink of the fiscal cliff and shut the public out in the process. Sadly, this is not the first time – every budget cycle since Republicans took over the Senate has gone down to the wire.

The Legislature remains in session because they continue to obstruct passage of the critical capital budget – which passed the House 92-1 – over their unwillingness to compromise on a water rights issue. This is no way to govern, and a real disservice to the people of this state.

Call lawmakers at

1-800-562-6000

to share your views on the capital budget.

July 10, 2017

Hand with mouse click here

Budget Information

Nonpartisan budget summary here.

State agency detail here.

Property tax impact information here.

Summary of K-12 funding here.

Nelson on floor of the senate applause

Contact Me

Phone: (360) 786-7667

Email: Sharon.Nelson@leg.wa.gov

Website: www.sdc.wastateleg.org/Nelson