Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2019 legislative session is winding down, with less than 30 days left. While the number of days are dwindling, we have a lot of critical issues to get through these next few weeks. Among these is a new, two-year state operating budget.
On Friday, the House passed the Democrats' $53 billion budget proposal. Despite a $2.8 billion budget surplus, lawmakers passed a budget that would require a tax increase of more than $4 billion. Republicans have continued to argue the state has sufficient funds to cover all our state's priorities without raising a single penny of additional tax dollars. Our latest revenue forecast is evidence of that – we have an additional $861 million in tax revenue coming into our state's coffers—$307 million for the current 2017-19 budget cycle, and $554 million for 2019-21.
Republicans also offered 31 separate amendments in an attempt to reduce the damage this budget proposal would cause, a few of which were accepted and you can learn more about here. The vote went along party lines, with Democrats voting for the inflated budget and Republicans voting 'no.'
I break this budget down in my most recent video update. You can watch it here or by clicking below.
Investing in our mental- and behavioral-health system
I've often said that if I only had $1 to invest in this budget, I would send it to our mental- and behavioral-health system. Mismanagement of our state hospitals and our failure to connect individuals to critical services are among the top issues we are facing as a state. Solving this issue will undoubtedly lead to safer, more vibrant communities, alleviate pressures on law enforcement and housing, and will help those suffering from mental health crises lead healthier lives. This budget, however, is out of whack.
For example, this budget increases higher-education spending by $607 million while providing just $340 million to behavioral health. We are already number one in the nation for providing college financial aid – we have the market cornered when it comes to taking care of our students. So, why then, would we allocate nearly twice as much for grants and other tuition assistance programs than we do for a chronically underfunded and deeply flawed system that needs urgent assistance? That doesn't make sense to me, and that's one of the many reasons why I couldn't support the budget that passed the House on Friday.
'Like' my Facebook page
In an effort to be even more accessible to you, I've created an official, legislative Facebook page. I encourage you to like and follow the page, and join the community conversation!
Of course, you can always reach me by calling (360) 786-7968 or sending an email to Chris.Gildon@leg.wa.gov. It's important in these final few weeks of the legislative session that you continue sending me your thoughts and concerns on bills and other matters before the Legislature. It's an honor to serve as your advocate in Olympia.