Olympia Legislative Report, January 8

Washington Clean Technology Alliance Weekly Legislative Report
Prepared by:  Boswell Consulting
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The 2013 Washington State Legislative Session will begin on Monday, January 14th.  Governor-elect Jay Inslee is preparing to take the reins from outgoing Governor Christine Gregoire.  Both the Governor and Legislature will be facing an estimated $900 million budget hole and a court mandate to increase the total spending on education by an indeterminate amount–but most estimates are about $1 billion.  Where that additional education funding is going to come from is going to be the great debate of this session.  Outgoing Governor Gregoire and most Democrats in the Legislative process believe that some kind of revenue increases will be necessary.  Republicans are talking about increased efficiencies and prioritization as the mechanism to drive any new resources to education.  There also appears to be strong desire to link any new education resources to education reform measures, such as teacher accountability.  The issue of revenue increases is also complicated by the recent court case filed by members of the Legislature and interest groups to rule that the two-thirds vote requirement for new or raised taxes is unconstitutional.  It is still unclear how the courts will rule on this and, if it throws out the two-thirds requirement, it will be much easier for the Legislature to raise taxes going forward.  This session will be further complicated by the current makeup of the State Senate.  At this point the Democrats have a narrow structural Majority in the Senate, however, two conservative Democrats have chosen to align with the Republicans to give them functional control of the Senate including the major fiscal and policy committees.  The Republicans have already indicated that they are not interested in new taxes, setting up what is expected to be a long session with clear battle lines between Democrats and Republicans and the House and Senate.

There is also expected to be a strong effort to put some kind of transportation funding package to finish the major mega projects and add new maintenance and operations funds.  How this effort could compete with education issues and funding is still unclear.  Governor Islee is also expected to be bringing several policy proposals forward this year around his innovation and job creation agenda; however, it is still unclear what those will be and how they will be received by the legislature.