Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It was an honor to serve you during my first regular session as your state representative in Olympia. This session was fast and there was a lot of new information to absorb. However, the work I have done over the years in the 28th Legislative District gave me a greater understanding of the impacts of legislation we debated. Your feedback throughout the session was incredibly helpful. To serve as your voice in Olympia, I need to hear from you and was pleased with the outpouring of e-mails, calls and visits I received from constituents sharing their solutions and opinions.
Below is a brief update on the state supplemental budget and bills I worked on this year. If you have questions about other bills we debated, please feel free to contact me.
We work best when we work together, which is exactly what we have done on the state operating budget this year and, although I was not in the Legislature, last year as well. Building on the strong, bipartisan budget last year, the Legislature passed a state supplemental operating budget. It is called “supplemental” because it makes only minor changes to the larger, biennial budget we passed last year. I voted “yes” on the supplemental budget for several reasons, including:
- College tuition rates remain frozen for students;
- We prevented tax increases (The majority party in the House proposed increasing taxes on bottled water, recycled fuel, prescription drugs, e-cigarettes, and eliminating the sales tax exemption for out-of-state shoppers);
- Of the $155 million in new spending, nearly two-thirds is directed toward education funding, which is critical to meet the mandates in the state Supreme Court's McCleary order;
- It increases the state's ending-fund balance to $315 million; and
- The Legislature's business was completed on time without the need for a special session.
Here's the breakdown of how the state will spend the additional $155 million:
- Public education (K-12) – $64 million
- Higher education – $35 million
- Early learning – $20,000
- All non-education funding (includes protecting our most vulnerable, developmentally disabled people, Medicaid health care services, etc.) – $56 million
As with any compromise, there were things I liked and disliked in the budget. But, I appreciated the fact that we focused new spending on K-12 and higher education. I know we'll have more heavy lifting on education funding in the next budget cycle, but this budget is a good example of what we can do when we sit at a table and find common ground.
As a veteran and someone who is active in our military community, I believe even small changes that help those who have served us bravely make a difference. This year, nine bills I sponsored or was directly involved with crafting to assist our veterans and current military members passed the Legislature. Working to ensure veterans and military personnel a smooth transition to civilian life or as a new resident of Washington state is a priority for me. Two bills I sponsored this year to help our service men and women are:
House Bill 2363 would require the state Department of Social and Health Services to provide services to developmentally disabled children of military service members in the order he or she was on the waiting list in another state, rather than having to go to the bottom of the list for services after relocating to Washington. This bill passed the Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature.
House Bill 2343/Senate Bill 5775 would allow the option for veterans to have a veteran designation on their driver's licenses and identicards issues by the state Department of Licensing. The Senate's “companion” bill (SB 5775), sponsored by Sen. Don Benton of Southwest Washington, passed the Legislature as I authored it in the House. The bill-signing ceremony with the governor for these and six other veteran-related bills will take place on April 2.
Please feel free to contact me if you need a speaker for your event or community meeting, would like to meet with me one-on-one, have questions on legislation or need assistance navigating a state agency. I am your legislator year round and believe that the two-way dialogue we build when the Legislature is out of session is incredibly valuable when the session is in full force.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you, your family and your neighbors. I look forward to seeing you around our communities.