Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As most of you know, the Legislature met for special session last month in an effort to solve our state's projected $2 billion shortfall. Many of my colleagues and I were prepared to come to Olympia and solve the entire budget problem and focus on getting our 300,000 unemployed citizens back to work.
That didn't happen.
The special session lasted a few weeks and budget leaders cobbled together a mixture of budget fund transfers, early savings and other budget gimmicks to solve about one-quarter of the budget shortfall.
I supported this proposal in the end because I felt that some action was better than no action at all. But in this case, I believe we could have – and should have – done much more to get our state's spending back in line with revenues.
Speaking of revenue, you might find it interesting that the state's revenues are expected to grow about 6.9 percent over the next two years. Think about that – 6.9 percent! I doubt many families in our state can say the same thing about their revenues. And that is $2 BILLION more than we took in for the last budget.
Yet, even with this expected revenue increase, there is already talk of raising taxes.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: the minute folks start talking about tax increases, all efforts towards prioritizing spending and making significant government reforms simply vanish.
This isn't right. I believe we can balance this budget, fund education, protect our communities, and deliver services to the most vulnerable among us – like the developmentally disabled – within our existing revenues.
However, while we're debating the budget shortfall in Olympia and looking at solutions to our state's spending issues, we have to remember the state's paramount duty: education.
The recent State Supreme Court decision once again emphasizes the fact that education is the state's number one priority – and I agree. I believe we should fund education first. Education should get the first dollar from the state's budget, not the last.
My House Republican colleagues and I have a proposal in the works that will do just that – create a separate “education budget” that demands the state fund basic education. I hope you will support us in this effort.
And once again, as I make decisions in Olympia this year, I will continue to weigh whether a proposal helps create jobs in Washington or hurts job creation.
In her “state-of-the-state” speech, Governor Chris Gregoire called for a new $1.50 tax on each barrel of oil produced in this state. In her mind, this is how we create more jobs – government jobs in the form of new infrastructure projects.
But I believe we need more private-sector jobs that are long-term employment, rather than one-time public works projects. This year, I'll once again be working on solutions to help give employers the certainty they need to begin hiring again and expanding their operations. We need a strong, thriving private sector to help grow our economy and to Get Washington Working Again!
OPEN OFFICE NIGHT
This year, we're going to continue our tradition of having “Open Office Night” on Thursday nights from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for anyone to stop by for a few minutes to chat about anything they want. My schedule gets so busy with committee hearings, floor action, caucus meetings, and other office meetings, so some folks aren't able to get in to see me. I try to make every effort to meet with anybody who wants or needs a moment of my time, and this is just one last way for folks to connect with me. We did this last year and people seemed to like it. Sometimes I have several individuals stop by and other times it's just me and my soda and my jar of smoked almonds!
As always, your input is greatly appreciated. Please feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns. It is a privilege and honor to serve you in Olympia.
FYI – Redistricting
Every ten years, shortly after each federal census, Washington state goes through a redistricting process so that legislative and congressional districts are balanced by population. On January 1, the Washington State Redistricting Commission adopted a plan to redraw lines for legislative and congressional districts. Here is the final legislative map unanimously adopted by the bipartisan commission after a year-long process. The final detailed report to the Legislature was published on Jan. 9. The Legislature may vote to make very minor adjustments within 30 days but does not vote on the overall plan. After this, with or without changes, the redistricting plan becomes law. The new districts will take effect for the November election this year.