Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2019 session has begun. I'm in Olympia now for the next 105 days working for you; being YOUR voice in the state House. Things are a bit different now with one-party control of both legislative bodies and the governor's mansion. Accountability and transparency will be at a premium as we strive to find solutions to the issues facing Washington residents.
I have once again been selected by my colleagues to serve as the ranking member on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. I'm also on the Appropriations Committee and the Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Earlier this week, the governor used his State of the State speech to outline his plans for more spending, more taxes, more bureaucracy and a significant environmental agenda (a billion dollars on orcas?). Northeastern Washington Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber from Republic gave the Republican response. She talked about the people paying the bills and said instead of more, perhaps we should be focused on better.
While the issues we deal with in Olympia will be many, here are some of the key ones that will take up much of our time and energy:
Tax increases – Despite record revenues, which have grown 17 percent ($4 billion) since last biennium, certain legislators in Olympia – and the governor – want to raise taxes. There will be proposals to implement a capital gains income tax, a B&O tax increase, possible carbon tax, gas tax, and more. I continue to believe that Washington taxpayers have given plenty and that state government should live within its means.
Sustainable budgets – If Gov. Jay Inslee's proposed budget was adopted right now, state spending will have increased by 75 percent in just eight years. State spending is far outpacing the incomes of the people who are supposed to pay for it.
Housing and homelessness – We need to address the root causes of homelessness (drug addiction, mental health, lack of economic opportunity, and lack of affordable housing) and implement solutions to help make housing more affordable. Each new regulation adds to the cost of owning or purchasing a house, pricing many citizens out of their homes.
Mental health reforms – There is a shortage of beds and services for our state's mental health needs. We need to invest in regional reforms and expand our behavioral health workforce. The state has spent millions on exclusive, state-run facilities like Western State, and it has not worked.
Opioids – More people in Washington state are likely to die from an opioid overdose than car accidents. But some in urban areas, like Seattle, want to focus on supervised heroin injections sites.
Rural broadband – Rural broadband is one of the most important economic tools we have to bring economic opportunity to rural Washington. Telemedicine, education opportunities, businesses, telework and more are all impacted. We will be working to find public/private partnerships to connect the last mile of broadband for rural Washington.
(The photo above was taken at Palouse Falls State Park last spring. After two fatalities last year, I met with parks officials to discuss ongoing and enhancing safety measures.)
Career-connected learning – Going to a college or university for a four-year degree is the right path for some; but not all. We need to expand our career and technical education opportunities so our kids are not saddled with debt.
What do you think our top priorities should be? What are the most important issues you are dealing with in your lives? What do you think the Legislature should focus on? I'd welcome your thoughts and ideas. Send me an email if you can. I use your stories and examples often when trying to fight for our values and priorities in Olympia.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email update. And thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you in the state House.