Rivers supports sustainable budget with education emphasis

OLYMPIA… Sen. Ann Rivers lauded the $33.6 billion budget approved Friday by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The new operating budget includes $15.2 billion in overall K-12 funding, an 11 percent increase over the previous budget.  The budget also prevents higher-education tuition increases by providing funding for Washington’s six public universities and one college, plus its 32 community and technical colleges, at more than 10 percent beyond maintenance level.

“I am especially proud of the way the Legislature finally gave some relief to college students and their parents by preventing tuition increases for the first time since the days when Ronald Reagan was president,” said Rivers, R-La Center. “We need to invest in our future, and we can’t do that if higher education becomes priced out of the range of average income earners.”

Rivers is also pleased that the budget accomplished these substantive improvements with no new general taxes.

“The budget strongly reflects the values of the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus,” said Rivers. “We are all about crossing partisan lines and working on good ideas that will benefit everyone, such as creating a sustainable budget, building a business-friendly environment and fulfilling the state’s paramount duty to provide ample public-school funding.”

Rivers is also pleased that the final budget reflected several measures she sponsored, including one that exempts clay pigeons sold at nonprofit shooting clubs from retail sales taxes. Shooting clubs pay taxes twice on clay pigeons — a tangible personal property tax plus a retail sales tax when customers buy the pigeons. This stiff tax regime was enough to put some gun clubs out of business.

“This was an egregious example of double taxation,” said Rivers. “I’m glad we have finally removed this unfair burden on nonprofit shooting clubs.”

Another Rivers-sponsored measure that ended up in the final budget was a proviso to create new licenses for anyone that grows, processes and dispenses medical cannabis. The state’s Liquor Control Board would oversee these licenses, as well as tightening up rules for obtaining a medical-cannabis authorization. It would require parental notification for persons under age 18 to get a marijuana authorization, and it would create new taxes for medical cannabis that would be slightly lower than taxes on the recreational-marijuana industry.

“What this measure is about is to close a loophole that allows medical-marijuana growers to sidestep the regulations of Initiative 502, which allowed a regulated market for recreational marijuana. It is just good policy for folks to play under the same rules.”

The budget passed Friday, averting a government shutdown because its approval came before Monday’s start of the next state budget cycle.