2015 session is off and running
This week my colleagues and I returned to Olympia for the 2015 legislative session. For the next 105 days I will be working diligently to ensure job opportunities are expanded, a great education is within the reach of every child and that we budget at the state level like you do at home: by living within our means.
Two years ago I was part of the Senate’s newly formed Majority Coalition Caucus; we set out to govern in a whole new way, and our success was evident at the conclusion of last year’s legislative session, when we finished on time with no new taxes and on budget. The MCC will continue as the majority in the Senate, and we are even more determined to make sure taxpayers are getting the most value for their tax dollars.
Above is a photo of me from Monday taking the oath of office and being sworn in by Washington State Chief Justice Barbara Madsen.
Continue reading for a preview of the 2015 session
Majority Coalition Caucus protecting your pocketbook
While I’m certain education funding will take center stage during this legislative session, the good news is that our Senate majority has already spent the past two years addressing the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, which requires a larger state investment in Washington’s public schools. For many years the rate of spending on non-education services and programs had been increasing more than the rate of spending on education; we reversed that trend and also succeeded in including, in the most recent state budget, an additional $1 billion that is dedicated to answering the court’s 2012 decision. I’m proud to be part of a caucus that has treated K-12 education as the “paramount duty” our constitution says it is.
There is a myth being circulated by the governor and others that our state is facing a massive budget deficit and there won’t be enough revenue to even continue funding state services and programs at today’s level. The answer, according to these same sources, is hiking taxes. Thanks to the sensible state budget that was passed in 2014, not only do we have enough money to continue providing essential services, but to fully meet the McCleary mandate as well. I believe tax increases should be considered last, not first. Many families are finally managing to recover from the recent recession. I won’t ask these folks – or anyone – to pay more in taxes, especially when there is still plenty of belt-tightening that could happen in Olympia.
Passage of a new transportation reform and revenue package also will be a priority this session. Recently Governor Inslee released a proposal for transportation that has me concerned. His plan relies heavily on untested revenue sources that may have consumers paying significantly more at the pump, to heat homes and to transport goods to market. I won’t support policies that harm working families. Instead we need solutions that are fair, equitable and make our transportation system work.
Already hard at work
Shortly after the Legislature adjourned in the spring of 2014 I rolled up my sleeves and began planning for this legislative session. In December I “pre-filed” seven bills so that when committee hearings began in January, I could get right to work. Many of my proposed bills are related to water and agriculture – no surprise there! I want to ensure that my neighbors and their businesses have the tools to thrive.
Later this week my colleague Sen. John Braun and I will introduce a bill that addresses water concerns statewide: the Washington Waters Act. In our agricultural communities we understand the importance of a clean and abundant water supply. This legislation will prioritize water projects based on clear criteria, best science, public safety and value for our investments.
I will also be working hard this session to negotiate a responsible Senate capital budget. As head of this subcommittee, I want to see taxpayers protected and sensible projects included that won’t require increasing the state’s credit-card debt. Did you know that each year the state pays out close to $1 billion just on its debt service? This is real money that could go to support education, without tax increases.
Last year, my Senate-majority colleagues and I reached an impasse with the House Democrats when they insisted on including $19 million in “pork” spending in the capital-budget proposal. You can be sure that I will continue to demand the same accountability this year.
While I’m excited to be back in Olympia representing you, I will miss being in the community and visiting with my neighbors and friends every day.
I hope you’ll reach out to contact me. Your feedback is how I serve you better as your state Senator. I answer my email personally. You may also call my office at (360) 786-7684 to voice your opinion or make an appointment.
It remains my honor to serve you in the Washington State Senate.