18 05, 2015

Sen. Nelson: Improving revenue positive, but work still remains to craft a bipartisan, sustainable and fair budget

May 18th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the release of the state’s revenue forecast:

“I was very pleased to learn our state’s revenues are expected to increase. This is further proof that our economy is improving and that Washington is shaking off the effects of the Great Recession.

“Senate Democrats advocated for an earlier forecast and now I hope this will help push budget negotiations across the finish line and the legislature can complete its work as soon as possible.

“While this is good news, I think we should all still be cautiously optimistic. A strong revenue forecast may help alleviate our budget anxiety this time; that may not be the case next time.

“It’s not enough for us to just get through this special session with another down payment on McCleary – we need to be able to fund education forever, with the sustainable and dedicated funding that the Supreme Court demanded and our children deserve. We can’t count on getting a good revenue forecast late in special session every two years. That kind of thinking is what got us to this point, where we are in contempt of court for failing to fund basic education.

“Washington’s tax structure is the most unfair in the country, we know that. Until we establish a more diverse revenue system that asks everyone to pay their fair share and establish dedicated revenue sources, I fear we will continue to write budgets with our fingers crossed.

“It’s good news that this uptick in revenue will help fill some of the holes in the Senate Republican budget. But when you start adding up the problems – $200 million taken from the public works trust fund, $4 million worth of cuts to courts, $75 million below what state employees are due to earn and the underfunding of foster care, food assistance and mental health programs to name a few – new revenue evaporates in a hurry.

“An improvement in the revenue forecast is absolutely a positive development, but it doesn’t fix bad policy or an unsustainable budget. Only dedicated and fair revenue sources can do that. This forecast will help us reach a bipartisan budget agreement, but we still have work left to do.”

11 05, 2015

New proposal targets carbon reduction, rural economic growth

May 11th, 2015|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – As legislators continue work to come to an agreement on the state operating budget and a funding solution for schools, work has continued to refine the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, which could provide as much as $500 million annually for the general fund while also reducing harmful carbon pollution. Today, a new proposal was introduced that will help reduce pollution, fund education and other vital services and boost Washington’s rural economy.

This Thursday, May 14, the House Appropriations Committee will hear a new proposed substitute to House Bill 1314, offered by Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland). The proposal places a firm cap on carbon pollution while ensuring economic opportunity and job creation across all of Washington. In conjunction with this effort, Senator Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) is introducing a similar bill, SB 6121.

“This is no longer just a climate change bill. This is a rural job creation and recreational access bill that helps reduce the state’s carbon emissions,” Hargrove said. “This program will create thousands of jobs in the renewable resource industry, including our working forests that sequester carbon while at the same time reducing emissions.”

“This new draft proposal advances our goal to reduce carbon emissions so we can have a safe environment while at the same time addressing the major concerns raised by impacted businesses,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien), the prime sponsor of House Bill 1314 and chair of the House Environment Committee. “This new draft is a win-win,” said Fitzgibbon. “It generates about $1.2 billion annually, of which $500 million per year would go to funding our K-12 education system. And it does so by reducing pollution and being responsive to the needs of our economy.”

During two hearings held on an earlier proposal (HB 1314) in January, House Environment Committee members heard from businesses about the impacts of the legislation. Changes in the latest version include significant economic development for rural Washington and additional mitigation of price impacts on competitive industries and rebates to avoid increased costs associated with transportation fuels.

“This proposal asks the polluters to pay while putting us on track to ensure Washington State remains a leader in the fight against climate change,” Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), said. “It would be difficult to find two more critical issues than education funding and climate change. This plan addresses both needs and does it in a thoughtful way. Asking polluters to pay more for their impact on our communities while supporting education and the environment is a victory we can all claim.”

The money generated by the auction of carbon pollution allowances would be used for:

  • $500 million to invest in our K-12 education system.
  • $333 million in fuel supplier rebates to limit increases in fuel prices.
  • $108 million for the Working Families Tax Rebate, ensuring that low income families are not unfairly impacted.
  • $15 million for the Washington Housing Trust Fund.
  • $53 million to keep energy intense and trade-exposed industries competitive by covering compliance costs.
  • $193 million for the creation of a Working Forests and Local Mills economic development program that provides payments to forest landowners who sell Washington timber to Washington mills.
  • $67.5 million in capital projects that enhance forest health, protect habitat, and increase carbon sequestration.
  • $21.5 million to address the increasing costs of fire suppression.
  • Tax credits for bulk transporters of agricultural products and for mills that generate new jobs.
  • Starting in 2017, establishing a $70 million grant program to address cumulative environmental impacts and social and economic disparities.

In addition to economic investments, the new proposal will also increase access to recreational land. This will ensure that Washingtonians and visitors can affordably enjoy our forests and natural lands.

“I think this finds the sweet spot between environmental stewardship, support for rural working families and the interests of the industries impacted,” said Hargrove. “At this point, all options have to be on the table. When people take a closer look, they will realize that this can be a big part of the solution for the people and natural resources in this state.”

7 05, 2015

Sen. Nelson: Voting is a fundamental American right

May 7th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following a work session on the Voting Rights Act and the testimony of a key figure at the center of Bush Administration efforts to suppress voting:

“The fight to ensure equality in voting has been a centuries-long struggle in America. We should do what we can to ensure that fundamental American principles of fairness and accessibility in government can flourish here in Washington.

“The Washington Voting Rights Act accomplishes these goals. It is a sensible, well thought out measure that creates a flexible process giving local jurisdictions new tools and information to avoid expensive federal litigation.

“It passed the House and its Senate committee with bipartisan support, but was blocked from debate on the Senate floor by Senate Republican leadership.

“Rather than debating the merits of this critical legislation, Senate Republicans have instead brought in an individual that has built a career on voter suppression under the guise of false claims of voter fraud.

“There is serious work to get done on behalf of the people of this state. We have failed to pass our budget on time and we’re in contempt of court for failing to act on education. School districts throughout Washington are trying to write their budgets and instead of getting down to work on our paramount duty of education, Senate Republicans have instead decided to create a distraction.”


4 05, 2015

Nelson: “We are all in this together and it’s time we had a tax structure that reflects that”

May 4th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Small business owners, teachers, home health care workers, law enforcement, nurses and many more Washingtonians of all walks of life came to Olympia on Monday to advocate for one thing – fair taxation.

Citizen representatives from all 49 legislative districts each spoke briefly on the need to reform Washington’s broken tax structure, which was yet again ranked as the most unfair in the country earlier this year by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Washingtonians who make the least – the poorest 20 percent – pay 17 percent of their income in taxes. Middle class Washingtonians pay 10 percent, while the richest one percent pay less that two and a half percent.

“Washington’s outdated and unfair tax structure is in dire need of a makeover,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, one of more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers who were in attendance for Monday’s hearing. “It is unconscionable to continue to prop up a system that asks more and more from people who are barely getting by, while at the same time giving away millions in tax breaks and asking for very little from the super wealthy. We’re not trying to punish anyone, but it’s not unreasonable to ask those who have been very financially successful to pay their fair share.

“We are all in this together and it’s time we had a tax structure that reflects that.”

Each person who testified told a story about the difficulties they face or have overcome. Several people talked about state services helping them win the battle against drug abuse or care for a sick loved one. Others talked about the need to invest more funding in our crowded schools or bring tax relief for small businesses.

Most offered petitions signed by hundreds of people from their home districts, advocating for tax reform and the passage of a capital gains tax which would tax the sale of stocks and bonds.

“Paying more in taxes is going to help a lot more people than it is going to hurt us,” said Steve Rubenstein, a self-proclaimed two or three percenter from the 1st Legislative District.