Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2023 legislative session has adjourned, and I wanted to send you an update on some of the major issues of session and our state budgets.
Funding education is a subject we heard a lot about from constituents all year, and as a champion for more school funding since my own time as a student in our state’s public schools, it’s one that’s personal to me. Our final operating budget has $2.9 billion in additional funding for K-12 education – the biggest increase since the McCleary decision – including $417 million for special education. That also includes a continuation of our work from last biennium to fund more nurses, counselors, and social workers in schools. Altogether, our hope is that this helps alleviate the financial pressure that local districts are under due to declining enrollment and one-time federal funding drying up, and it is a major help to our schools.
Personally, though, I wish we could have done more. Our leaders wrote a state budget with no new progressive revenue, and I think that was a missed opportunity. We had several different options on the table this year, including my Washington State Wealth Tax to get billionaires to pay what they owe toward funding our public schools and other community investments, but despite strong advocacy, that legislation didn’t pass. This is not something we’re giving up on anytime soon.
With my friends and progressive tax reform champions Rep. Debra Entenman and Rep. My-Linh Thai, after the passage of HB 1477, to update the Working Families Tax Credit to include more families!
Housing affordability is one of our biggest challenges, in Seattle and across the state, and I’m tremendously proud of the progress we made this year. Our housing crisis is a complex issue, and we took it on from every angle. We made record-setting investments directly into constructing affordable housing and preventing homelessness through our Housing Trust Fund and in our operating budget. When you combine the capital and operating budgets, we’re investing more than $1 billion in housing and homelessness prevention – that’s going to make a huge impact. We also passed policy bills that will make it easier to expand the supply of all types of housing. We’re adding more density, especially near transit, while including provisions to preserve our urban tree cover and to make sure we’re including affordable housing in the mix.
Building enough affordable housing so that every Washingtonian has a home isn’t something we can do overnight, but this session was a substantial victory for housing. I’m excited to continue this work as the Vice Chair of the Senate Housing Committee. Our next steps need to be focused directly on providing more stability for renters – we passed a couple bills to help support tenants, but there’s a lot more to do. I’d like to see us act next year on bills like SB 5435, legislation I co-sponsored to limit the rate of rent increases to 3%, or the rate of inflation. Direct stability for renters is the sort of thing we need to take on to help keep people in their homes as we build the increases in supply that we’re making possible.
I’m also glad that we stood up for our progressive values on several really important issues. On abortion, we passed legislation to prohibit insurance companies from imposing cost sharing, so it’s easier for people to afford care, and we passed legislation to implement Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to ensure that the mifepristone pill remains accessible in Washington, regardless of whether right-wing judges are successful in their attempts to block manufacture of the pill in the future.
On gun safety, we passed hugely impactful legislation, including a ban on the sale of assault weapons and a bill sponsored by my seatmate, Rep. Liz Berry, to require training and a 10-day waiting period before buying a gun. These are massive steps forward that would have been almost unthinkable to pass in the Legislature just a few years ago.
And while too many states are passing legislation to punish their transgender residents, deny them health care, and push them out of public life, Washington went the other way. We passed a bill to protect children seeking gender-affirming and reproductive care, to help ensure they aren’t facing the risk of homelessness, despite an all-out push to oppose it from the Republicans and right-wing talk radio and internet personalities. I’m proud that even when things got tough, we stood up for our values on these important issues.
When we look back on the 2023 session, there’s a lot we can be proud of. I think we also see quite a few opportunities for next steps – continuing to fix our upside-down tax code, protecting renters, reforming our juvenile legal system to work better for young people caught up in it and reduce recidivism, and more. There’s still a lot of very important work to be done.
I’m honored to have had the chance to represent you this year, my first in the State Senate. I look forward to hearing from you about this year’s session and about what we want to see next year. You can reach me any time at Noel.Frame@leg.wa.gov, and I always appreciate getting your input. I’ll continue to stay in touch with you about updates on some of the legislation I personally sponsored and some of the work we’ll be doing in the interim. In the meantime, thank you as always for reading!
Sen. Noel Frame