Dear Friends and Neighbors,
You are invited to a town hall meeting. Sen. Steve O'Ban and I want to hear from you about the issues and concerns you have as we prepare for the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.
Wednesday, Nov. 18
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Bethel High School Library
22215 38th Avenue East, Spanaway, WA
No RSVP is required to participate in the event. People not able to attend are encouraged to send questions and concerns by phone or email. O'Ban can be reached at (360) 786-7654 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can be contacted at (360) 786-7890 or by email at email@example.com.
The upcoming 2016 session
Here is a quick update on topics important to our community as we get ready for the 2016 session.
I'm happy to report the 2015-17 bipartisan transportation package delivered more than $495 million of transportation improvements to the I-5/JBLM corridor. This investment will improve safety and provide congestion relief to this heavily traveled corridor, and is vital to the economy of our district and maintaining our troop levels at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Current projects include:
- Construction of extra lanes, new exits and railroad grade separation;
Installation of ITS – intelligent transportation system – devices and ramp revisions to help manage traffic, and communicate real-time traffic conditions to the public;
- An auxiliary lane on southbound I-5 in Lakewood between Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street to accommodate high volumes of traffic at that exit;
- A project to revise the I-5 Center Drive interchange in DuPont, allowing continued use by JBLM drivers; and
- Funding for an I-5 JBLM vicinity congestion relief study, to evaluate the best way to identify and improve transportation through the JBLM vicinity from Center Drive to Gravelly Lake Drive;
During the upcoming session my focus will continue to be on meeting a reasonable budget, cutting out the waste, and making long-needed changes to ensure we get the best system for our tax dollars.
Education – McCleary
We all want what is best for our children. The 2015-17 operating budget adopted at the end of June provides historic funding increases for K-12 education. Included in the budget are provisions for all day kindergarten, lower K-3 class sizes, sizable new investments in special needs and early learning, as well as finally funding teacher COLAs – something I have advocated for my entire time in the Legislature.
It is crucial we guarantee resources to our children, schools, and teachers that allow them to do their jobs. We must support them. While I believe our state remains on track for full compliance of the McCleary order, it is important that we focus on what matters the most – providing a quality education to the children of this state. That is why during the interim a bipartisan legislative team was sent out to on a listening tour to collect feedback from local communities. These are important conversations that provide direction as we continue to work towards solutions that help our kids.
Local school levies, reform is needed
Currently, there are three options to address education funding: levy reform, new tax increases, or cuts. The local school levy is one of the most regressive taxes in Washington. Areas of the state with the lowest property values pay the highest amount in property taxes, while areas with more affluent property values, such as Seattle and Bellevue, pay less than 30 percent of the median tax rate.
Here's the basic concept of how a pure property tax levy swap might work:
1. Increase the state property tax rate to $3.50 per $1,000 assessed value in 2019. (The current 2015 state property tax rate is $2.19 per $1,000.)
2. Distribute this revenue to the local school districts.
3. Reduce each school district's local levy authority by the amount gained in state funding.
The total tax revenue would remain roughly equal, but most of the funding would be collected and distributed at the state level, which would eliminate the huge inequities between school districts.
The use of the “new” state tax dollars from a levy swap would likely meet the state Supreme Court's requirement of a “dependable and regular tax source” as these funds would not require local approval and reauthorization. Plus, the same tax rate would be equally applied across the state, guaranteeing every student will get the same quality education, regardless where they live in Washington.
I took part in a recent legislative working group on the use of body cameras worn by law-enforcement. We heard from community members, local law enforcement, and technology experts. There are many aspects of this new technology that need to be explored. Body cameras are an unblinking eye-witness. It is important that we continue to gather information and obtain public input to shape policy that will strike a balance between transparency for police, privacy for citizens, and protection for our communities.
The best asset of the 28th District is its people. It is an honor to serve you and I am deeply appreciative of our partnership. Together, we are making a difference.
Please feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or concerns.