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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The following is a press release I sent to our local media with my seatmate, Rep. Stephanie McClintock. I wanted to make sure you had access to this information firsthand as the media does not always accurately reflect our efforts in Olympia:

18th District reps laud House capital and transportation budget proposals, disappointed with operating budget

With the 105-day 2023 legislative session entering its last few weeks, state budgets take center stage as negotiations continue around the state’s two-year operating, transportation, and capital budgets.

Budget writers from the Washington State House of Representatives recently released their proposed versions of all three budgets. Representatives from the 18th Legislative District are encouraged by what they’re seeing in both House proposed transportation and capital budgets, but have reservations with the House’s $70 billion operating budget.

“I think one of the biggest wins for us right now is the money that’s been allocated for the 179th interchange replacement project in Clark County,” said Rep. Greg Cheney, R-Battle Ground. “The original request was for $50 million. We asked for an additional $30 million and the funding that’s in the House proposal is just over $86 million. We’re working hard to make sure state budget writers know southwest Washington priorities. This is an integral part of our region’s transportation corridor for commuters, freight mobility, and with the homes that are slated to be constructed in this area.”

Reps. Cheney and McClintock in the House Consumer Protection & Business Committee on March 21, 2023

The 2023-25 House transportation budget is $13.2 billion and focuses on keeping projects originally contained in the Connecting Washington plan from 2015 on track for completion. This is a distinct shift from what Gov. Jay Inslee originally proposed in his transportation budget, which included many project delays.

“The House transportation budget proposal includes $275 million for the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River and specific intent language of committing $1 billion to the project,” said Rep. Stephanie McClintock, R-Vancouver. “We’re excited to see this funding included in the House version to keep this important project on track. Southwest Washington has waited too long for the replacement bridge. Delays of any sort from the legislative side of things would be completely unacceptable and unreasonable.”

The proposed House capital budget also was viewed favorably by Cheney and McClintock, both of whom serve on the House Capital Budget Committee. The capital budget is commonly referred to as the “bricks and mortar” budget as it uses state-issued bonds to fund long-term construction and community projects.

The House capital budget proposal appropriates a total of $8.38 billion with $4.18 billion in newly-authorized bonds and includes the following projects for the 18th Legislative District:

  • $1.365 million for the Klineline Bridge and ADA Improvements.
  • $1.288 million for increased drinking water storage for Battle Ground’s reservoir.
  • $24.229 million for a state-owned and operated community mental health 48-bed facility.
  • $8.581 million for Lower East Fork Floodplain Reclamation project (shared with the 20th Legislative District).

Unlike the transportation and capital budget proposals, the two 18th District lawmakers said the $70 billion operating budget proposal was much more partisan. In addition, they say the state is spending at an unsustainable rate and the plan doesn’t leave enough in reserves for a downturn in the economy.

“State spending has more than doubled over the past 10 years,” said Cheney. “I don’t think very many families in southwest Washington can say the same about their take-home pay. This rate of spending increases is unsustainable. We’ve had several years of record state revenue increases. Budget surpluses have become the norm, but so has maximum legislative spending. What happens when the economy cools down or tapers off? Legislators will have to raise taxes or slash programs. Better to either give some of that back to taxpayers in the form of property tax relief or save more for a rainy day than to spend every dime coming in the door.”

Reps. Cheney and McClintock address guests at the state Capitol during the 2023 legislative session.

“The proposed House budget increases spending by about $6 billion over the previous biennium. This is a 16% increase in just one year. Instead of focusing on specific priorities or providing meaningful tax relief, this budget spreads it around like peanut butter across nearly 1,500 separate policy line items with very little transparency or accountability,” said McClintock. “It leaves $2.1 billion in our rainy-day fund. While this may sound like a lot, it is less than the 10% of annual revenues suggested by the State Treasurer’s office as a minimum target and less than the 50-state average. We can do better.”

Once the Washington State House and Senate pass their respective budget proposals, a conference committee for each is chosen to hash out their differences and produce a final budget. With just over three weeks left in the legislative session, the lawmakers say there is still time for budget writers to consider property tax relief, which has been an important issue for constituents.

The 105-day 2023 legislative session ends April 23.

Transportation budget
While it is true that the Senate’s version of the transportation budget does not include the necessary funding for the 179th interchange, I have worked hard with my colleagues in the House to stress the importance of this project. We were able to include funding in the House budget which puts us in a strong negotiating position with the Senate. The final two weeks of session will include a flurry of policy debates on the House floor with many amendments as we try to improve upon legislation. In addition, budget writers for all three budgets will negotiate across chamber and party lines to arrive at final proposals for the 2023-25 biennium.

Town halls
As a reminder, we will hold another round of in-person town halls on Saturday, May 13:

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Battle Ground City Hall
109 SW 1st Street
Battle Ground, WA 98604

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
WSU, Vancouver
Dengerink Admin. Bldg. 110 – Lecture Hall
14204 NE Salmon Creek Ave
Vancouver, WA 98686

Long-term care payroll tax set for July
Many of you have contacted my office about the upcoming payroll tax to fund the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Program. This legislation was passed by the majority party before I was a state representative. Due to its unpopularity and COVID, the program was delayed. It is set to begin deducting from your paycheck in July. To learn more about this program, click here.

My bills
House Bill 1797 passed the Senate unanimously yesterday. This bill will allow licensed real estate appraisers to do evaluations of real property, which are currently allowed to be done by non-appraisers.

Thank you for your continued interest in state government. If my office can answer questions or assist you with a state government issue, please contact us. We are here to serve you!

Greg Cheney

State Representative Greg Cheney, 18th Legislative District
406 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7812 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000