Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings from the North Pole! No, I'm not really in Santa's backyard – it just feels that way! Without the snowplows and de-icers that many Eastern Washington communities have, Olympia turns into an interesting place when snow and ice coat the roads. Driving becomes a contact sport; walking to a committee hearing becomes a delicate ballet; and visiting the governor's mansion becomes a troubling game of “dodge the falling ice-covered trees and branches.”
We've had several committee meetings cancelled this week because of the weather, along with meetings that various folks have scheduled with me, so the hectic pace of a 60-day session has slowed somewhat. But I expect things to hit the fast lane next week as everyone tries to “catch up.”
I hope you are all staying safe and warm as old man winter also tries to make up for the relative calm of the last few months!
More on the governor's transportation proposal
The governor has brought transportation into the mix of her priorities this session by proposing a transportation revenue package during her State of the State address last week. The proposal includes a variety of fee (tax) increases. A bill has yet to be introduced, but here is a list of the revenue sources she is targeting for her plan:
- $1.50 per barrel fee on any oil produced in Washington;
- $100 fee on electric vehicles;
- $5 per studded tire fee;
- 15 percent increase in combined licensing fees;
- $15 passenger weight fee increase; and
- Local options: fee increase to $40 for Transportation Benefit Districts or a one percent motor vehicle excise option.
It doesn't end with just fee proposals. A member of the majority party in the House has proposed House Bill 2370, which requires an efficient statewide transportation system to include the health of the state's citizens as part of the goals in developing transportation projects. I'm not really sure how you can relate and quantify a person's health with transportation projects, but someone somewhere thinks they can.
Finally, some good news from Olympia
There was some good news to come from Olympia last month. The Employment Security Department released data showing that our state's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate went from 9.1 percent in October to 8.7 percent in November. This means more than 12,000 jobs were added, which represents the largest one-month employment gain over the last four years. Preliminary estimates also show that nearly every industry sector posted job gains in November. You can read more here. Let's hope this economic momentum continues in 2012, as consumers gain more confidence and employers continue to hire.
Join me for our 9th District “teleforum”
Please join me on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6:35 p.m. for our 9th District telephone town hall meeting. This is a chance for residents around the districts to converse with me and listen to other constituents discuss issues important to you.
To participate, residents may call the toll-free number at 1-877-229-8493 and enter the code 15440 when prompted. During the telephone town hall we'll listen to residents, answer questions and discuss a variety of topics related to the 2012 session. Once on the line, participants may select star 3 on their telephone keypads to ask a question or they can simply listen in and take part in instant polls. There will also be an opportunity at the end of the call to leave me a message if you'd like.
I hope you can join us!
As always, please feel free to call or e-mail my office with your thoughts and concerns. You input is important to me as I go through my decision-making process on key issues. And thanks again for the privilege of representing you in Olympia.