Politics, by nature, is contentious, but one thing everyone in Olympia can agree on is that this has been a long and difficult legislative session. We had some big hurdles to jump and managed to clear most of them with historic bipartisan solutions. So why are we still in Olympia?
We are still here because our caucus will not waiver in our commitment to Washington families and their human right to water.
From the beginning of the session, we have made it very clear that the results of the Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision were unacceptable. They not only make it more difficult and expensive for cities and counties to determine water rights for residential wells — something the smaller governments aren’t equipped to do — they also deprive rural families of water and devalue their land. Learn more.
Residential water use, now limited under the Hirst decision, accounts for less than one percent of all water use in Washington. It has little impact on fish and streams. But, it makes all the difference in the world to a family who put every dime they had into a piece of land and now cannot build on it.
And if they can’t build on it, they can’t sell it and property values plummet. They lose everything. Then cities and counties lose the property tax revenue and population base they need for economic growth.
In fact, during committee testimony on Senate Bill 5239, which is our bipartisan solution to this problem, one man shared his heartbreaking story and got down on his knees and begged the Legislature for help.
Unfortunately, his plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the House. Four times we passed SB 5239, which is a permanent solution to this problem. Not once has the House put it to a vote. For a long time, the House wouldn’t acknowledge the problem and downplayed the damage Hirst will do — is doing.
Only after they realized that our “Hirst First” position would affect the passage of a capital budget did they reluctantly agree to begin talking about a solution.
In answer to claims that we are holding the capital budget “hostage,” we passed a capital budget out of the Senate unanimously 49-0. It was another bill the House let die.
Some accuse of us of being obstructionists, but the true obstruction is the House’s refusal to act on Hirst. That’s why we’re still here.
How does our district fare under the new K-12 education funding plan?
We did it! After long hours and late nights of negotiations, the Legislature came to a bipartisan solution to fully fund basic education, as ordered in the Supreme Court decision known as McCleary.
The Senate, the House and the governor all expressed confidence that the result will satisfy the court’s requirements and put our education system on the right path to providing Washington’s kids with the same quality education regardless of their ZIP code. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction also supports our plan.
So, how did our district fare in the process? What does this mean for you?
The chart above shows that every single one of our school districts will receive more state money to cover basic education costs that they are currently paying for with local levies.
The chart below shows that property taxes will drop by the year 2020. The blue line shows the wildly varying rates people in our legislative district are currently paying. Notice Carbonado pays more than twice what North Thurston pays.
Under the new plan, everyone will pay at the same rate and, once the new local levy caps are in place, everyone will see a state property tax reduction.
What does the education plan include? Read more about how Washington is funding education first.
The third special session ends on July 20. If we do not come to an agreement on the Hirst water-rights issue and the capital budget by then, will the governor call a fourth special session? That remains to be seen, but we will stay hopeful that it won’t be necessary.