Today State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, was named a vice chair of the key Senate budget-writing committee – Ways and Means – as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus set committee rosters for the 2017 legislative session.
“This is expected to be one of the most challenging and important budget years in recent memory,” said Brown. “I am honored to be chosen for this position. By taking a leadership role on the budget-writing committee, I intend to make sure that the views and budget-related needs of the Tri-Cities are not forgotten in Olympia.”
The Senate Ways and Means Committee is the Senate’s primary fiscal committee, which has responsibility for developing both the operating and capital budgets, as well as considering bills related to tax and pension policy.
Brown, who has served on the committee since 2014, pointed out that the Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus has made great strides in achieving responsible budgets since becoming leader of the Senate’s budget-writing process.
“Over the past three years, our conservative majority in the Senate has changed the direction of state government,” said Brown. “The Legislature has invested an additional 4.6 billion dollars into K-12 education; students at state colleges and universities have seen the first tuition cut in state history; and we have now passed – for four years in a row – balanced budgets that do not raise taxes.
“I will strive to make sure that we continue down this responsible path by working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pass a bipartisan, reform-minded budget that prioritizes education, protects our most vulnerable citizens and lives within the state’s means.”
Brown said one of her priorities will be passing a fiscal-reform measure that would establish a new approach for looking at economic effects of large-scale revenue measures. Her “dynamic fiscal notes” bill passed the Senate unanimously during the 2016 session, but failed to receive consideration in the House of Representatives.
“Fiscal notes, which are prepared by the governor’s budget office, currently only ask agencies to determine their actual cost of implementing a bill,” explained Brown. “The dynamic fiscal statements envisioned under my proposal would ask agencies affected by a revenue proposal to cast a broader net – to consider how people would shift economic activity as a result of a particular bill. This information would allow legislators and the public to have a more accurate idea of the net impact of major revenue proposals on our state economy.
“As we face tough budgeting challenges, we need to have a clear picture of how bills will ultimately increase or reduce the need for revenue,” said Brown. “Dynamic, not static, fiscal notes are a vital tool that must be in our toolbox as budget writers.”
Brown will also continue her strong leadership on the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee and the newly restructured Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development Committee.
“A lot of the issues we will deal with on the energy and agriculture committees have an economic-development component,” Brown pointed out. “The promotion of hydropower and nuclear power is not only vital to reaching our goal of cleaner energy, but new technology and innovation – such as small modular reactors – also have the potential to create thousands of high-paying construction, tech and manufacturing jobs for Washingtonians now, and for a generation to come.”
Brown will begin her new committee duties when the 2017 legislative session convenes Jan. 9.