Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Well, I just completed my first legislative session as a member of your 47th District legislative team. I am truly honored you have trusted me to be your voice in the House of Representatives. All your feedback in e-mails, letters, calls and meetings was extremely helpful. My goal was to cast votes that were principled and represented the people of our district. I know I can't make everyone happy, but I honestly voted with your comments in mind.
I learned so much from constituents and my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle this year. I am very appreciative of the support I received in passing my first bill to allow for the creation of Innovation Schools and School Zones. My seatmate, Representative Pat Sullivan, was helpful in my efforts to get the bill passed in the House, and our Senator, Joe Fain, helped me in the other chamber. On this issue, we made a great, bipartisan team.
Now that the session has finally adjourned, I have put together this brief legislative update that I hope you find helpful and informative. Also below is information on the telephone town hall meeting I am holding June 8. This will be in addition to in-person meetings in our communities.
Telephone town hall meeting June 8
In addition to scheduling in-person meetings around the 47th Legislative District, I am hosting an hour-long telephone town hall meeting on Wednesday, June 8 at 6:30 p.m.
To participate, just call the toll-free number 1-877-229-8493 and, when prompted, enter PIN number 17556. Once on the call, you can press star 3 (*3) on your telephone keypads and staff members will assist you with asking your question live.
We had a long session with the addition of the 30-day special session, and I know many of you have questions about the budget and other issues debated in the Legislature. This is one way to connect with those of you who are unable to meet with me in person.
If you cannot participate in the call, but would like to discuss the legislative session with me, I will make myself available for individual and group meetings around the district. To schedule an appointment or to ask for help dealing with or finding a state agency service, residents can call my legislative office at (360) 786-7918 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
The state operating budget
After a 103-day regular legislative session and a 30-day special session, the House of Representatives approved a record high $32.2 billion operating budget for the 2011-13 biennium. I voted against the spending plan included in House Bill 1087 because I had concerns about the reductions to education funding despite a spending increase of nearly $2 billion. You can read my press release here.
I truly appreciated the hard work done on the budget. I know that decisions were not easy, and there were some reforms in the budget I supported. However, I felt as the Legislature grappled with priorities of government, our spending decisions should have fallen in line with our top priorities – education, public safety and taking care of our most vulnerable citizens.
What ultimately caused me to vote “no” on the budget was when I saw we are spending nearly $2 billion more in the 2011-13 budget than the 2009-11 budget. If we are spending more, yet making the deepest cuts to education, we are not treating education as the paramount duty of the Legislature that the state constitution dictates. In the budget, certificated and classified school employees will receive a 1.9 percent pay cut and school administration will receive a 3 percent pay cut. However, step increases, or those given for longevity, are funded. National Board Certified teacher funding is changed, but remains in the budget to help schools retain quality teachers. To be perfectly clear, the reduction in teacher salary funding will be reflected in the amount each district is funded by the state. How the reductions are actually implemented will be determined by each individual district.
I also believe budget writers could have done a better job of restructuring programs and streamlining state agencies to serve their purposes, while making government smaller and more nimble. For example: budget writers left in place programs like Paid Family Leave and the Working Family Tax Credit that have never been funded and likely won't be in the near future. While we didn't spend money on these programs, getting rid of them so as to not be distracted debating line items we cannot afford at this point while crafting the budget would have been a great way to clear the deck for discussions about our state's top priorities.
My hope is that next year when we put together the supplemental budget there will be more of a bipartisan effort from the majority party budget writers. Good ideas are not trademarked by one political party.
I am available to meet, speak with you and your community groups
Now that I am back to work at Boeing, I will be in our communities and working hard to meet with constituents and community groups. If you have a meeting you would like me to attend – as a speaker or a listener – please contact my legislative office at (360) 786-7918 or firstname.lastname@example.org and my Legislative Aide Roy Atwood will work with you to find a mutually agreeable time.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you.