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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
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Thank you for trusting me to serve as your 47th District state representative. It is an honor. I have been working hard on issues important to the district – the promises I made as I met many of you last year are promises I plan to keep. My focus remains on job creation and retention, improving our education system and restoring fiscal sanity to the state budgeting process.
In this brief email update, I will share some of what has been at the forefront of this legislative session and some of the legislation I am working on. To watch my weekly legislative update, simply click on the picture on the right, then play the video under “Video Center.”
I will keep these email updates short to minimize the time it takes to go through them, but if you have other issues you are following you would like more information on, please feel free to contact me.
Putting forward solutions for a sustainable budget:
In late January, the majority party put forward House Bill 1086 to begin addressing part of the current budget's spending gap. Unfortunately, I could not support the measure because it did not address any of the necessary reforms to large government entitlement programs, some of which are duplicates of federal programs. Even worse, it retroactively de-funded K-4 enhancement dollars many of our school have already spent to hire teachers.
I supported an alternative proposal put forward by House Republicans. While the proposal had some difficult adjustments to spending, they are the tough choices you elected me to make to get our state back on track. I was proud to read that even the Everett Herald editorialized the “GOP had a smarter fix” for our state's budget shortfall.
I do not believe addressing the overspending of the past few years is a party-line issue – it is an issue of priorities. You can watch my floor speech on prioritizing education in the budget by clicking here, then click on the second video on the right hand side of the page.
Offering innovative solutions to education:
This year, I introduced House Bill 1546 to allow school districts the flexibility to create “innovation schools” because I believe there is no better time to think differently about how students learn than right now. You can read my news release on this legislation here.
We have a great example of the success of innovation schools in Des Moines – Aviation High School. By embracing change and the dynamics of the students and future employer needs, the community was able to build a successful program for students. I think we can make room in our education system to do more of this.
I would welcome your thoughts on this legislation – and other education issues you would like to discuss.
Fostering job creation and retention:
I believe the best way to get our state's economy back on track is by getting people back to work. An idea I put forward is House Bill House Bill 1672, which would double the Business and Occupation Tax (B&O) credit for employers. The B&O tax is a unique tax to Washington state where companies pay a state tax on gross earnings, not net earnings, so the government gets paid whether a small business makes a profit or takes a loss on a sale. You can read my news release on this bill here.
Unemployment insurance legislation moving forward: On Feb. 9, a bipartisan effort was made to address the average 36 percent unemployment insurance (UI) tax increase on employers, on top of last year's 42 percent hike ($364 million). House Bill 1091 and Senate Bill 5135 both passed with unanimous support. While slightly different versions of UI tax adjustments, at least both were balanced approaches to help employers by keeping tax rates stable for now while giving unemployed Washingtonians an additional $25 per week in benefits.
Some UI facts to consider:
- Washington's UI system is 308 percent more costly than the national average, not the lowest benefits, but the average benefit package.
- We have the second richest benefits in the nation and the program is listed as a critical disadvantage to recruiting and retaining jobs in our state.
- Without this compromise, another $366 million would have been taken from employers that could have been put to better use creating jobs for the 350,000 unemployed Washingtonians.
I supported both bills because I know something needed to be done right now for employers and citizens. But, I hope a bipartisan group can come together soon to put in place real fixes that address the cost of the system so that it is sustainable years into the future.
I hope you found this brief update informative. By no means are these all the issues, but they are some highlights I thought you would like to know more about. If there is a specific issue or bill you would like more information on, please feel free to contact me. All of my contact information is located on my web site.
Thank you, again for allowing me to serve you.
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7918 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000