Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside) says the just-completed 2006 legislative session was a mixed bag of accomplishments and disappointments.
Newhouse said being on the team that negotiated a landmark water agreement culminating 25 years of hard work was a high point. On the other hand, he described passage of the state's largest spending increase ever as a low point.
"I came into the session with a clear vision to offer positive solutions to issues important to Washington families. I worked with my colleagues to do that by always coming to the table with proactive, constructive ideas," said Newhouse. "I believe we were successful in some issues, particularly in the area of water policy.
"Representative Chandler, Senator Honeyford and I fought long and hard to make sure all the various water interests had a voice in the process. In the end, we were able to pass legislation that makes water available to farmers, fish, cities and industries as they adapt to changing needs associated with growth," said Newhouse. "These are all positive, but the real win in this agreement is the $200 million in funding for expanding water storage which was secured.
"This bill is a great start, but it's only a start. We have to follow through on the intent and commitment," Newhouse added.
He also highlighted legislation which will be particularly helpful to Eastern Washington's wine and tourism industry.
"The Legislature passed House Bill 3150, which I co-sponsored, to let Washington wineries partner with local restaurants and hotels to market their products. This legislation would allow them to promote their products by featuring both the name of a winery and the name of a restaurant on private wine labels, and create marketing brochures highlighting local wineries, restaurants and hotels. In addition to a boost to the wine industry it would also increase tourism revenues," said Newhouse.
HB 3150 has been delivered to the governor for her signature.
Newhouse said the state's supplemental operating budget and its unprecedented level of spending was a huge disappointment. He called the budget unsustainable and said it sets up taxpayers for future tax increases.
"The purpose of a supplemental budget is to address unanticipated, unmanageable changes in the original budget appropriation. It's created to fund emergency situations," said Newhouse. "This budget included $468 million in new or expanded programs. I don't believe that is in the best interest of taxpayers."
Newhouse supported legislation to create a constitutional spending limit, a constitutionally secure reserve fund and require a 60 percent legislative vote to raise taxes or dip into the reserve fund.
"We go to Olympia to represent Washington taxpayers and I'm very concerned with the high level of spending and the low level of saving," said Newhouse.
The 2006 session ended last Wednesday, March 8.