House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said Thursday that even if the state Senate quickly approves a proposed transportation package fueled by an increase in the gas tax, the measure won’t be heard in the House until lawmakers address education funding.
Sullivan said a plan to fund the requirements of the Washington Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision, which requires a substantial increase in funding for K-12 education, should be in place before taking on the transportation package.
“I think we need to focus on McCleary given the fact that we’re under a court contempt order,” Sullivan said at a media availability for Democrats. “I’m not getting the same sense of seriousness from the Senate Republican side.”
Sullivan said after McCleary is addressed, he’s happy to pass a transportation package.
“I need to invest, at a minimum, $1.3 billion in education this session and yet all I hear is silence (from Republicans) on solutions to address that,” Sullivan said. “I don’t see how I can go back to my constituents and say we raised your gas tax … but when it comes to our school kids, we failed them.”
Other topics addressed at the media session:
1. Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said she was disappointed that bills to raise the minimum wage, enhance access to contraception under Medicaid, and set a paid sick and safe leave standard have not been given hearings in the Senate. Friday is the last day for policy bills to be heard in non-fiscal committees.
“We have a variety of bills that have just been sitting there,” she said. “What we hear is they’re waiting on the House to bring them over. We’ll see then if they go ahead and get a hearing.”
2. House Bill 1930, which would exempt the Western Hockey League from state labor laws, was passed unanimously Thursday by the House Committee on Labor. Washington’s four teams are currently under investigation by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries over a complaint regarding issues of child labor.
“Those are students who decide they want to participate in the Western Hockey League, they choose that pathway for themselves,” Sullivan said, later adding: “I think the system actually works pretty well.”