The 2015 legislative session has concluded with much left undone. As a result, the Legislature is headed into overtime. The governor has called for a special session, which will begin on April 29, to negotiate and approve an Operating Budget. In addition, because a compromise has yet to be reached on an Operating Budget, the Capital and Transportation Budgets also remain in limbo. There are major differences between the competing Republican and Democratic proposals. However, I remain confident that we will be able to reach a compromise soon.
Millions of dollars are at stake for Pierce County. This money will lead to a strengthened infrastructure, an improved economy, and more jobs for the greater Tacoma area.
The Capital Budget includes more than $43 million for projects in the 29th Legislative District and surrounding areas. Some of the local projects coming to our area include:
- $1 million for the Stan and Joan Cross Park in Frederickson;
- Funding for a veterans’ shelter at Western State Hospital;
- Wapato Lake dock reconstruction;
- Funding for Springbrook park; and
- Access improvements for the disabled at the Lemay Car Museum.
Statewide, the proposal outlines funding for more than 2,100 classrooms, for mental health services by expanding the number of community behavioral health beds, and for other local government infrastructure projects. The Capital Budget is a job creator and recession buster; we desperately need it to pass so our economy can continue to recover.
Another job-creating and economy driving proposal is the Transportation Package. It is critical that we find a way to work out our differences on this proposal and pass it. If it passes, Pierce County will receive $2.3 billion in transportation investments.
Our infrastructure is in dire need of a significant upgrade. Gridlock is forcing parents to spend more time in traffic than at home at the kitchen table with their kids. Traffic is also delaying the process of getting goods to market, which is hurting our local economies. Important projects coming to Pierce County include: funding to connect of SR 167 and SR 509 with I-5 and alleviate Joint Base Lewis McChord traffic. It also designates funding towards the Safe Routes to School grant, which will lead to more sidewalks ensuring our kids are safe when they walk to school.
Lastly, I should mention that we have to fully fund our schools with a reliable revenue source. The Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to make a significant investment into our state’s education system this session. Both the Senate and House budget proposals include at least $1.3 billion for schools. In order to make this work, my Democratic colleagues and I are asking for a small capital gains tax on the richest few to pay for schools. Right now, folks in the middle and lower classes are paying the lion’s share of our state’s taxes. Asking the richest few to pay their fair share is the right thing to do and it will give our kids the help they need.
A lot is at stake this overtime session for Pierce County and our children. I remain optimistic that we will come up with a solution that creates jobs, drives our economy, and benefits our district and the people of Pierce County.