While Sound Transit officials prepare to ask people living in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to pay billions in new taxes for more costly light rail projects, they may be experiencing nervous shock at what just happened in a neighboring city to the north. Voters in Metro Vancouver, B.C. just handed a resounding “No” to local transit officials, coming in 62% against a proposed subway and light rail expansion project.
Completion of this year’s legislative session is on hold for the moment, and the just-completed 2015-17 state budget faces a $2 billion hole, because of a late-breaking dispute over funding for Initiative 1351, the class-size reduction initiative.
After the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on King versus Burwell, proponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, have not only claimed victory, but are telling the rest of the country to get over it and just accept the ACA as the law of the land. They claim that millions of people have health insurance through the ACA, that the uninsured rate is dropping and that premium price increases, at least in the individual market, are slowing.
Around 11:30 p.m. last night (30 minutes before a government shutdown) Governor Inslee signed the state's 2015-17 budget. Though the new budget is only a few hours old, there is already a $2 billion cloud hanging over it.
With just hours to spare before a partial state government shutdown, the legislature overwhelmingly adopted the state’s 2015-17 budget. By a vote of 38-10 in the Senate and 90-8 in the House, lawmakers approved a $38.2 billion biennial budget ($79 billion all funds). This represents a 13% increase in spending from the 2013-15 budget.
Yesterday, after 165 days of discussion and negotiation, lawmakers in Olympia reached agreement on a state budget for 2015-17. The new budget will increase spending on K-12 public schools from the current $15.26 billion to $18.15 billion, an increase of 19%. Lawmakers achieved this large rise in spending with the natural increase in current revenues, without imposing new taxes on Washington families and business owners.
Lawmakers have again made reducing traffic congestion a top priority for state officials. Prior to 2007, the state used performance-based benchmarks to make sure that transportation tax dollars were being used effectively to reduce traffic congestion. In 2007, lawmakers repealed that language and replaced it five goals of transportation policy. State lawmakers added a sixth policy goal in 2010. Congestion relief is not among them.
It is wonderful news the state won't be facing a government shutdown and that a major transportation investment package with good reforms is moving forward but the last week, the past 72 hrs in particular, have been very embarrassing for the cause of an open and transparent legislative process.
As employers in SeaTac and Seattle comply with those cities’ new $15 wage law, some have added a surcharge to their customers’ bills to cover the cost of the higher mandated wages. The surcharge policy has the added benefit of transparency, showing customers how prices have gone up as a result of the change in the law.
This weekend, Governor Inslee announced he would forego mandating a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) as part of the agreement on a transportation package. The environmental community had been making a last-ditch push on the LCFS, including taking out ads and an e-mail blitz to their members.
The primary talking point has been that an LCFS would improve air quality and reduce asthma. That claim, however, is not supported by any science, including the Governor's own reports.
Many have made the link between the LCFS and air quality.
This morning the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare - the King v. Burwell lawsuit. You can read about the ruling here. This suit deals with the legality of people receiving subsidies in the health insurance exchange established by the federal government. Some 36 states elected to use the federal exchange rather than set up their own exchange. Washington state is one of the 14 that established a state exchange.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is working with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers to repeal the state’s low carbon fuel standard regulations (LCFS) as part of passing a broad congestion-relief transportation package. The agreement shows how a governor and lawmakers of both parties can come together to pass important legislation that serves the people of their state. Unfortunately, things are working differently in Washington.
South Carolina, North Carolina and New Hampshire are in the same boat as Washington with a major budget fight threatening a government shutdown on July 1. Those three states, however, are using a continuing resolution to keep government open while budget negotiations continue.