House of Rep. kills bill to fix rural water rights, budget updates and more from Olympia

 

The House Democrats’ war on rural Washington continues

I’ve written to you before about the Supreme Court’s decision in a case titled Hirst vs. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, which changed how water availability is determined when someone wants to get a permit for a residential well so they can build on their land. The decision makes that process complicated and prohibitively expensive and effectively halts rural construction statewide.

While the intention of Hirst was to protect fish, wildlife and recreation, small family wells account for less than 1 percent of Washington’s water consumption. The impact is minimal.

However, the effects on rural Washington will be devastating. Families will not be able to build homes on the land they’ve purchased, which will cause the property values to plummet and will undermine revenue collected to fulfill what the Supreme Court has ruled is our paramount duty — fully funding education.

We have heard testimony from people who were counting on building a home and now will lose everything because all the money they invested in their dream will be lost. One gentleman got down on his hands and knees to ask the committee for help because his family’s savings and dreams are gone.

How does a family recover from that? How do you sell land that is effectively worthless for any kind of residential development? Where can families turn?

I co-sponsored Senate Bill 5239 which would change the law so that regulations would revert back to what they were before the Hirst decision. It would protect Washington’s rural communities, including the workers and businesses that would suffer from the halt in construction. SB 5239 passed out of the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 28-21.

Unfortunately, the House Democrats refused to vote on the bill in committee, effectively killing it. Why would they do that to our rural communities? Why would they hurt the families that live in the 2nd Legislative District and in rural areas around the state?

This must be fixed this session and my colleagues and I are committed to seeing this through.

For more information on how the Hirst decision affects us all, go to www.FixHirst.com.

How does the Senate capital budget benefit the 2nd Legislative District?

This past week the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan capital budget worth $4 billion. I wanted to share with you some highlights of that proposal, including a couple of projects in our area. First, though, I want to point out that the budget does not rely on a carbon tax and it does not tap into the state’s “rainy-day fund,” keeping that money safe for future state emergencies or an economic downturn.

For the 2nd Legislative District:

The potential debris flows that could come from Mt. Rainier in the event of an eruption could have a devastating effect on our district. It’s important to identify what our current capabilities are and what we need to do to improve advanced warning systems. Our personal safety depends on it.

I’m pleased to say that the capital budget includes $250,000 for the state emergency management division to conduct a comprehensive study and make recommendations for a lahar and seismic activity warning system.

Another focus of mine this session has been to answer the need in our district for higher education. Fortunately, the capital budget includes money to pay for Pierce College to provide college courses in our district in conjunction with the Bethel School District. I’m very proud of this and hope we get to see this program developed further.

More details:

  • Contains the largest investment in school construction in state history;
  • Supports mental health priorities with $78 million
  • Invests in the state’s water needs;
  • Fully restores the Department of Ecology’s previously delayed clean-up projects;
  • Provides $97 million to fund entirely the current Public Works Assistance Account project list;
  • Dedicates nearly $100 million toward affordable housing;
  • And, encourages innovative housing projects with a $12 million investment.

 

Gary Clinton’s Sports Medicine class at Yelm High School in Yelm, Washington.

Education Funding Update

Negotiations among the legislators continue and our Education Equality Act remains the only viable, fully funded solution for meeting our paramount duty. The operations budget released by the House Democrats proposes spending $500 million LESS than our plan on K-12.

What’s more, their budget proposes an income tax on capital gains as a way of funding education but does nothing to reform the current educational funding system. My problem with this is twofold.

First, the tax would be applied to net gains that you have to report as income on your federal tax return. That makes it an income tax, which voters have said six times they do NOT want.

Second, the Supreme Court has said that the over-reliance on local levies for basic education costs such as teacher salaries is unconstitutional. It creates an opportunity gap for low-income students because districts in areas with lower property values get less money, but are taxed at a higher rate than communities with higher property values which get more money for schools.

Levy reform MUST be part of the solution and the House Democrats’ budget does nothing on this front, which sets us up for future court cases that would bring us right back to square one.

Our education plan does reform the levy system and applies a flat rate of $1.55 per $1,000 of the assessed value of your home. No matter where you live, you’re taxed at the same rate. As a result 83% of the state sees a property tax reduction, including everyone in the 2nd Legislative District. And, every one of our school districts will receive more money.

Stay tuned for more information as the negotiations move forward.

Senator Becker with guests; March 29, 2017

Welcoming guests to the Capitol

I welcome many guests to my office during the legislative session and this week I was happy to welcome John and Teresa Williams from Yelm. John and Teresa purchased the item I donated to the Yelm Dollars for Scholars auction, which included lunch with me during our session, for up to four people, as well as a tour of the Capitol campus and the Governor’s Mansion. I was so happy to visit with them and support such a worthy cause.

Coming to Olympia?

Contact my office to set up a visit.
My constituents are always welcome!