Rivers, Vick talk schools, budget at Camas Library

Education funding dominates town hall

Sen. Ann Rivers and Rep. Brandon Vick met with constituents at a Camas town hall Saturday morning. Both Republicans agree that issues regarding the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on adequate K-12 education funding will be solved during the current legislative session.

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard attended the town hall and asked the 18th District legislators about the issue of education funding.

“All the rest of us are McCleary weary,” Guard said. “There are hundreds of other issues to be working on.”

Guard said later that those were the same comments he made to Gov. Jay Inslee’s staff the previous week.

Budget negotiations will soon be underway in Olympia, as lawmakers prepare to wrap up the state legislature’s regular 105-day session Sunday, April 23.

The McCleary decision, handed down by the state Supreme Court in January of 2012, requires the state to fully fund basic K-12 education by the 2018-19 school year.

Vick said Saturday that his entire legislative career has involved the McCleary issue. He is in his fifth year of serving as a state representative.

Washington legislators are considering five budgets, including Gov. Inslee’s $8.8 billion plan, right now.

“The governor puts in everything in the budget,” Vick said.

Rivers is on the budget negotiating committee.

“The Senate proposal is very similar to the plan offered by the governor’s own Director of Early Learning, Ross Hunter,” Rivers said after the town hall. “It is difficult for me to take seriously any education funding plan that isn’t funded. That is the plan the governor has offered to the people of this state.”

Vick said Gov. Inslee is tasked with writing two budgets.

“One that uses the money on-hand, and one that funds everything that does not balance, but funds all of his pet political projects,” he said.

“While it is a starting point, the governor’s budget proposal was soundly rejected by all corners of the legislature,” Vick added. “There is simply no way to fund his requests.”

Vick said the House Democrats’ budget is hard to take seriously because they have spent $3 billion more than the state will take in this year ($8 billion in the next biennium).

According to Vick, with an improving economy, Washington State will bring in an additional 13 to 14 percent in tax revenue during the next two years.

“This is more than enough to do the business of the state,” he said. “The House Democrats have offered a spending plan that increases spending by more than $3 billion, yet refuses to provide a way to pay for it.”

“They have offered legislation to impose a capital gains income tax, a 20-percent increase in the B&O tax, an additional real estate excise tax and many others,” Vick added. “In Washington State, our budget is required to balance. The Democrats need to pay for their plan if they wish for it to be taken seriously.”

Additional topics mentioned by area residents during the town hall included a sexual assault protection bill, dental access bill and immigration issues for refugees in the community.

Kathy Duley, of Camas, told the legislators even though Camas is seen by some to be an affluent area, many residents struggle to make ends meet.

“I help prepare food bags for students every Friday at school,” Duley said.

The legislators also discussed the I-5 corridor, affordable housing, mental health and graduation rates for homeless students at Saturday’s town hall.