Post-Session Notes, Operating Budget Comments

Thank  you again for letting me represent you in Olympia. It’s an honor and a privilege, though I feel much less privileged when the session runs into July. We finished our work Friday morning June 10th, passing a transportation spending bill and bills that allow the state to take out bonds based on the revenue. We also passed a small bill changing high school graduation requirements, the centerpiece of a disagreement in the Senate over initiative 1351 (class size reduction.) The graduation bill delays the imposition of the science standards for two years, allowing 2000 kids who met all the graduation requirements other than passing the biology end of course exam to graduate. It does NOT make a number of other changes I took issue with when they came up earlier in session.

In the last week of June we passed the 2015-17 operating budget, my particular responsibility in the Legislature. It’s reasonably straightforward and didn’t need to take us until the end of June to resolve, but the Republican Senate was unwilling to compromise on their all-gimmicks, no revenue strategy until the very end. In the last few days we came to an agreement that is a true compromise – the House conceded to the use of more financial shortcuts than we would have preferred and the Republican Senate agreed to close $350 million of tax loopholes. I didn’t get everything I wanted, and there are some elements of the deal that are distasteful. I think the same is true for the Senate Republicans. Had we gone past June 30th the state would have gone into a partial shutdown, including laying off doctors and nurses, shutting childcare facilities for 50,000 kids (which would cause 30,000 low-income single moms to lose their jobs or depend on sketchy care), and other bad things.

I’m glad to live and work in “this” Washington, a place where we can discuss issues rationally and come to compromises, unlike the “other” Washington where they seem to have great difficulty in doing so. I do wish it took less time. Continue reading “Post-Session Notes, Operating Budget Comments”

Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Model, Part 2

Last week’s newsletter on Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Action Pricing Model got a lot of comments – about three times the normal amount. Thanks for reading it! The bill has arrived in the Appropriations committee and we will spend some time looking at it before taking action, so I have time to work through all the details.

Readers of my newsletter and blog brought up a few concerns that I felt I should respond to. Here are my responses to the most common ones.

Why should we act – China, India, etc. are far larger than us and aren’t acting…

There are two ways to respond to this concern. First, I can quote Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  This may be unsatisfying to some readers. 🙂

Second, I can point to how much of the world’s economy (and carbon emitters) will soon be covered by some kind of carbon pricing scheme, including China. The following graphic from Sightline shows the expansion of carbon pricing strategies, including planned rollouts over the next few years. We would not be acting alone. For more detail read the Sightline article.

Sightline: All the World’s Carbon Pricing Systems in One Animated Map

Cap and Trade or Carbon Tax? Why one over the other? Continue reading “Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Model, Part 2”

Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Proposal

I’ve gotten a lot of email this year about Governor Inslee’s climate proposal, both pro and con. Mostly pro, but a number of questions have come up and I’d like to take the opportunity to address them.

  1. I have no personal doubt that the globe is warming up, and that human activity contributes to this.  If you are confused about this there are lots of excellent pieces that work through the science in great detail, such as the information on NASA’s website:
  2. I support the general direction Gov. Inslee proposes: using a market-based solution as the organizing mechanism to drive changes in our behavior to address this over time. People on the left and the right tend to agree that getting the markets to include all the costs of decisions is much more efficient than writing extensive regulations.
  3. I am open to using either Gov. Inslee’s proposed “cap and trade” mechanism or the simpler but less focused “carbon tax” strategy. Both are economically similar, but have different implementation concerns.

The basic idea is that we impose a tax or fee on activities that produce atmospheric carbon, as close to the source as we can. This fee will result in less of the activity (bringing fossil fuels in to produce power of some kind.) The Sightline Institute has a great summary:

If you want a primer on how a cap and trade or carbon taxes work I urge you to look at the one Sightline publishes.

Continue reading “Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Proposal”

Lawmakers seek community input on state budget

Posted on January 5, 2015
Rep. Ross Hunter

How would you solve Washington state’s $4.4 billion budget problem?

That’s the central question Senator-elect Cyrus Habib (D-Kirkland) and Representative Ross Hunter (D-Medina) will be asking their constituents at a town hall meeting this Saturday, 10 a.m. at Redmond City Hall. Representative-elect Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) will also be participating in the discussion.

The eastside lawmakers want to hear from 48th district residents on what issues are important to them. They will provide a brief overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the state in the upcoming legislative session at the town hall.

“As I move from the State House of Representatives to the State Senate, I am keenly aware of the challenges before the Legislature: the need to address income inequality, the opportunity gap in education, and climate change,” said Habib who was recently selected to join Leadership of the Senate Democrats. “I look forward to discussing these and other issues with my Eastside constituents on Saturday.”

“We’re facing a large budget problem this session,” said Hunter, the chair of the committee responsible for writing the state budget in the House. “In addition to the constitutional education funding problem pointed out in the McCleary decision, the voters approved an expensive initiative lowering class sizes. Representative-elect McBride, Senator Habib and I are looking for feedback from constituents on the right mix of new revenue and program reductions in other areas necessary to fund these obligations.”

The 105-day legislative session convenes on January 12.

48th Legislative District Town Hall
Redmond City Hall
15670 NE 85th St.
10 a.m. – noon
Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fail: Congress Working on Toxics Policy

With the exception of education policy, there’s probably no other issue where states’ rights are paramount than when it comes to the health of its residents. Congress is currently considering a bill that would have devastating consequences to public health in Washington state if they don’t make major changes to the proposal. The federal Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), currently being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is an attempt to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. The 1976 act is in dire need of updating – something both parties agree on.

Unfortunately, the CICA not only falls well short of improving the current law, it will actually put communities at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. It will impose weak chemical testing standards, create faulty cost/benefit methods, and prohibit states from adopting their own toxic chemical protections. Continue reading “Fail: Congress Working on Toxics Policy”

Update on Floating Signs in Lake Washington

Seattle is saying no, he cannot float the sign. WSDOT has many more words to the same effect that I’ve included below. We are working with all the mayors surrounding the lake to make sure that this visual blight does not actually occur.

I will continue to post on this issue, and propose legislation in January should it be needed.

WSDOT Comments:

Continue reading “Update on Floating Signs in Lake Washington”

More on Toxic Flame Retardants

Government scientists found that chairs containing flame retardants, like the one being tested above, burn just as fast as identical chairs without them. (Consumer Products Safety Commission / May 5, 2012)

In 2005, 2006, and 2007 I championed a bill in the Legislature that prohibited the use of poly-brominated diethyl (PBDE) flame retardants in products sold in Washington State. I argued that PBDEs were toxic for children and unnecessary. It was an ugly fight with the chemical industry. I was surprised at the level of duplicity in the testimony presented. At that time I had not seen the level of hardball that people were willing to play when their financial interests were at stake.

I eventually succeeded in banning PBDEs in most furniture and children’s products, though the industry is working to slightly tweak the chemical composition of their product to get around the ban. The Chicago Tribune has done some serious reporting on the issue and is coming out with a big series of articles that expose an even deeper level of duplicity than I had believed possible, even after seeing the testimony here in Washington.

The average American baby is born with 10 fingers, 10 toes and the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world. The toxic chemicals are present in nearly every home, packed into couches, chairs and many other products. Two powerful industries — Big Tobacco and chemical manufacturers — waged deceptive campaigns that led to the proliferation of these chemicals, which don’t even work as promised.

Chicago Tribune

End of Session Budget Update

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Washington State Legislature. It’s an honor and a privilege. This year was pretty “special.” There’s nothing like a little drama to spice up a legislator’s life. This session had it all – defections on budget votes, protesters requiring hearings to be shut down, people being arrested, and a sleep-over to end the session.

This newsletter only addresses operating budget issues. Lots of other interesting things happened or are happening (520 bridge construction, for example) and I will address those in the next document.

The Operating Budget

We left the 2011 regular session with a budget that most neutral observers thought was a pretty reasonable product. It was balanced and had a healthy reserve of over $700 million. The final vote was a bipartisan one, with significant participation from Republican Senate members. Since then we’ve had pretty significant declines in our revenue projections due to the economy and faced about a $2 billion projected shortfall coming in to the December special session.

In that session we solved about $500,000,000 of the problem, leaving about $1.5 billion left to fix in January. We got good news in the forecasts, reducing the problem to about $1 billion, which we addressed in this year’s supplemental budget. Our negotiating process was bi-partisan, as was the final voting pattern.

The budget has no cuts to education. This means early learning, K-12, and higher education were left whole. This is a miracle, and was not accidental. I felt strongly that in light of the Supreme Court decision on school funding we could not in good conscience make reductions here, and as the budget committee chairman my opinion was able to prevail.

Continue reading “End of Session Budget Update”

House Budget Proposal

Earlier this month I released the House budget proposal for 2011-13. Just before the end of the regular session, the Senate released their proposal. I asked for the job of chairman of the budget committee, but it’s clear my timing with the economy might have been better.

This budget is responsible, thoughtful, and sustainable. I’ve also tried to make it consistent with my values and the reason I ran for this job in the first place. I care about children – their education, their health, and their future – and I’ve tried to protect those as much as possible given the situation.

We were well-received critically:

Editorials | House budget passes key test: It balances | Seattle Times Newspaper – Editorials: Serious response to crisis
Apr 05, 2011 · THE HERALD EVERETT, WASHINGTON … Worries that House Democrats were dragging their feet on a state budget … Generally, the House majority’s plan is serious …

Continue reading “House Budget Proposal”

Conservation NW – People who do real work

Tricie and I spent last weekend in the Okanogan looking at the work of the local land trust and of Conservation NW, the umbrella organization that is working to protect a corridor between the Rockies and the Cascades. It’s an amazing place. Here are a couple of pictures from the trip – one mine, two others from a Park Ranger at a wildlife area a couple of miles from where we stayed.

We saw over 30 different types of birds in a 3-hour tour. The second photo from Assistant Manager Justin Haug is one of the many songbirds. The last picture is one of mine – a casual snapshot as we drove along Palmer Lake.

Birding tour at Sinlahekin wildlife area
Nashville Warbler
White horse in a yellow field