OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun released the following statement after the 2023 Washington State Legislature adjourned after a 105-day legislative session.
“Republicans have a lot to be proud of this year. We were able to address each of our top priorities: public safety, affordability and education. We had some big disappointments as well, but we fought hard. We were able to pass some important legislation and prevent some bad legislation from moving forward.”
“Public safety wasn’t a top priority just for Republicans. It was the top priority for Washingtonians, by a wide margin. Our communities are plagued with homelessness, violent crime, drug abuse, auto theft, and retail theft. Some have said that they feel as if they are under siege. Yet Democrats pushed legislation that would lower the penalties for criminals and ignored the pleas of victims’ families. While we did pass a bill that expands the list of crimes where the standard for police pursuit is ‘reasonable suspicion’ instead of ‘probable cause,’ the standard does not apply to auto theft or reckless driving. It’s only a half-step in the right direction. And it was opposed by law enforcement and the mother of a young girl who died after being hit by a stolen truck. She testified that the legislation would not have saved her daughter.
“Sadly, the House Democrats aggressively fought against a bipartisan compromise on the bill to address the use and possession of hard drugs. Instead, they pushed a version of the bill that law enforcement has said is worse than passing no bill at all. Fortunately, it failed because it prevents cities and counties from taking a more assertive anti-drug approach.”
“The people’s next top concern was the dramatic increases in the cost of living and our shortage of affordable housing. Fortunately, we were able to stop some outrageous tax increases, including one that would have hit taxpayers with a $12 billion increase in property taxes over the next 10 years and another that would tax drivers by the mile. These would have disproportionately harmed middle and lower-income families, just as the shortage of affordable housing has. We made great strides in zoning and permitting reform that will increase buildable land and make it easier to builders to increase the supply of housing so more people can become homeowners.”
“I have said many times that the high level of learning loss suffered by Washington’s school children is the equity issue of our time because it has increased the learning gap, leaving children of color and those in lower-income families further behind. I’m very disappointed that the $70 million allocated in the Senate budget proposal to close that gap was absent from the final budget. That’s a huge disservice to our kids.
“I am glad, however, that the budget includes $800 million over four years to enhance special education programs. Republicans have fought for five years for more special education funding because the kids receiving those services deserve better than they’ve been getting.”