Sen. Hawkins talks budget, K-12, 522 cash at town hall

MONROE —  State Sen. Brad Hawkins held a town hall in Monroe Wednesday, Sept. 6 which discussed the state budget, transportation, nursing, K-12 spending, and the Senator’s views on all of the above.
Hawkins (R-Wenatchee) represents the 12th District, which covers Monroe eastward to Chelan County.
He expresses concerns about how the state budget is getting fatter.
Hawkins voted against the state’s $69.8 billion two-year operating budget earlier this year, saying he objected that didn’t maintain enough cash reserves and instead spent “to the edge.” The state budget 10 years ago was under half this size, at $33.9 billion, Hawkins outlined with a slide. (He voted yes for the state transportation and state capital budgets this year.)
Hawkins would prefer the state hold 6% to 8% in reserves. Currently it’s about 4%, he said.
He’s also concerned about K-12 spending being unsustainable, and having too much to spend on that isn’t classroom-centered.
Non-classroom spending is “what’s driving the costs is the expansion of services” in K-12, Hawkins told the Tribune.
It seems like “all of society’s services are being put through the school system” and he doesn’t consider that realistic, he told the crowd.
Hawkins explained more of what he means in a post-meeting interview with the Tribune, pointing out that many public schools now provide health services and provide year-round child care. Some districts support Pre-Kindergarten efforts despite their K-12 age range being Kindergarten to 12th Grade. Some have health clinic services co-locating on school grounds.
“What we’re observing is a redefining of education over time,” Hawkins told the Tribune.
Negotiated pay increases among staff also may be taking away from classroom funding for students, he told the crowd.
Hawkins outlined how he is fighting to finish state Route 522, and also would like to see renewed investment for U.S. 2.
The 522 project is currently in the engineering and design phase to widen the last part of state Route 522 and completely redo the Maltby Road/Paradise Lake Road intersection to get rid of the stoplight.
No money is allocated for construction, and that will take more than $150 million.
The senator floated an idea to see more transportation funding be dedicated directly to infrastructure. His idea is to rearrange a few departments’ budget sources: Hawkins said the state transportation budget — from gas taxes and other sources — funds the Washington State Patrol, the state Department of Licensing and the state Department of Transportation. He believes those departments should be paid for from the state general budget versus transportation, and the state’s sales tax revenue on car sales should move from the state general budget into the transportation budget.
When asked, he wouldn’t commit to saying he’d file a bill pursuing his
expense-shifting plan in the 2024 legislative session.
To grow overall state revenue, he’d look to do everything to make “a business-friendly economy” to generate more sales tax revenue.
About 25 people attended last week’s town hall held in the Monroe School District administration building.
The senator also gave a little slideshow of photos inside and outside the state Capitol.
Hawkins has done these “listening tours” for the past seven years to take ideas back to Olympia. The state Legislature convenes its 2024 session on Jan. 8.