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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2012 legislative session is now in its fourth week and will run through March 8. The two major issues before state lawmakers are a struggling economy and a $1.5 billion budget shortfall. Unfortunately, to date, there has been little progress on addressing either of these critical issues. Instead, the majority party has been focusing on bills that would create a new state bank, ban plastic bags, abolish the death penalty and increase the penalty for playing a radio too loudly on a state ferry. When I talk to individuals and small business owners, these are not the issues they are concerned about.
The bottom line is we need to get Washington working again – both its economy and state government. You can find some of the solutions I support to strengthen our economy and create jobs from a previous e-mail update here. Below are some of my views on the state operating budget, education and health care. As always, I welcome your feedback.
Budget deficit is impacting our state's credit rating
How the Legislature spends your tax dollars has many repercussions. Our state operating budget problems have a far-reaching impact on not only those reliant on programs and services, but also our state's credit rating. I was very concerned to read a Seattle Times article on Jan. 27 that said our state's prime credit rating could be in jeopardy because of our persistent state operating budget woes. A Fitch Ratings downgrade in credit for our state would mean higher future borrowing costs. I don't have to tell you what this would mean for taxpayers and our economy. This issue really comes down to being fiscally responsible now so we don't risk our state's economic future. We need to be well positioned as a state when the national economy finally turns around. We are not there yet.
Balancing the operating budget by prioritizing state spending
Part of our state's persistent budget problems can be attributed to poor tax collections from a struggling economy. However, we can also point to out-of-control state spending from 2005 to 2008 and a failure to commit to a limited, but effective, state government the last four years. Business as usual in Olympia has to stop.
If our state is going to finally align its spending with revenues, like so many families and businesses have done in these tough times, we must prioritize. The paramount duty of the state, as emphasized in our state constitution and a recent state Supreme Court decision (McCleary v. State), is K-12 education. It represents nearly 43 percent of our state operating budget – the largest component of our state spending plan. The governor is proposing to cut K-12 education by $630 million and then ask voters to “buy” the cuts back through a state sales tax increase. This is absolutely the wrong approach. K-12 education deserves our state's first dollar, not its last dime. Our state should not gamble on its students' future by asking voters to tax themselves more.
To read the statement I put out on McCleary v. State, a case that challenged the adequacy of state funding for K-12 education under our state constitution, please click here.
Fund Education First: House Bill 2533
I support a solution called Fund Education First. House Bill 2533 would require the Legislature to pass a separate K-12 education budget before any other state appropriations. First introduced in 2006, the majority party Democrats finally gave it a hearing for the first time today. You can learn more here.
Our state currently has separate transportation and capital construction budgets. If we can have separate budgets for our state roads and buildings, then it only stands to reason that we have one for our schools. By funding education first, our state would ensure that it meets its constitutional obligation and delivers better outcomes for its students.
Upcoming telephone town hall meeting
I would like to invite you to my telephone town hall meeting on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 7. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and run for an hour. This is an opportunity for you to ask me questions and receive updates on the legislative session. To join in, please call, toll free, 1-877-229-8493. Once prompted, enter code 15549. This will plug you into the community conversation with other local residents. I hope you can join us!
Staying in touch
An important part of my job as a state representative is to communicate with those I represent. I hope you find these e-mail updates informative, but I am also mindful of your time and privacy. With that, if for any reason you would like to be taken off my confidential e-mail distribution list, you may do so by going to this link. This same link will also allow your friends and neighbors to sign up for my e-mail updates. You may also contact me directly and I would be happy to remove your e-mail address from my list.
It continues to be an honor to serve our communities. If I can ever be of assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me. My contact information is below.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7852 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000