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2015 legislative session convenes on Monday, January 12th

News Release from Washington

Posted 1/9/2015

Court-mandated basic education funding will occupy center stage when the 64th Legislature convenes at noon Monday for what many observers see as one of the most important sessions in memory.

Top priorities include a voter-approved class size reduction measure and a comprehensive transportation package. Above all, a new two-year budget will dominate the 105-day regular session, with possibly special sessions to follow.

The Governor’s budget proposal, released in December, calls for  $38.9 billion in spending for the 2015-17 budget period, a $5.1 billion increase over the current $33.8 billion budget. This is well beyond the $3.0 billion in increased revenues expected in the next two years. The Governor proposes making up the difference with limited cuts, ending certain tax preferences, and $1.4 billion in new taxes, including creating a capital gains tax on Washington residents. He also wants to create a carbon tax that will likely be passed on to consumers, to raise about $12 billion for transportation projects over the next seven years. Governor Inslee says he now wants to raise taxes, after promising when running for office that he would veto any tax increase. Other prominent issues include marijuana regulation, access to health insurance and proposals to increase the state minimum wage, currently the highest in the nation.

Fourteen new representatives and four new senators will take their seats in the new legislature.  Following November’s election, the House is now more closely divided with 51 Democrats and 47 Republicans, while the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus now has 25 Republicans and one Democrat. Senate minority Democrats have 23 members.

Ahead of the session, 152 bills have been pre-filed, the first of thousands to be introduced.  In the 2013-14 sessions 4,060 measures were introduced, with 604 enacted into law. Legislators will also consider procedural changes, including remote testimony during hearings by citizens who cannot travel to Olympia. This proposal has been championed by the Washington Policy Center and was successfully tested during a Senate hearing in November with remote testimony from Spokane.

A rule change to require a two-thirds majority vote on tax bills is also under consideration. Voters have mandated a two-thirds requirement for tax measures five times, but each time the requirement has been repealed or struck down. and WashingtonVotes News will track all the action in Olympia in the coming months. Look for us, too, on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with key legislation and important events.

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