Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been an incredibly busy few months with September sneaking up on me. I know many of you have children headed off to school this week after enjoying some nice weather that finally arrived. Like you, I have been busy with family, work and home projects, but have also traveled the 47th Legislative District to meet with local leaders and constituents. Below is a brief update on my activities. As always, if you would like to discuss any of these issues in greater detail, please feel free to call my office.
Local civic group visits
It has been great meeting with local Rotary and Lions groups in the 47th District. They have certainly been welcoming and are shining examples of community involvement. In my chats with the groups, I have shared my frustration with the legislative process and some solutions I have to make government more transparent.
I believe open and honest debate is the best way to ensure the public is informed and to give every lawmaker the opportunity to speak for their constituents in an environment that is unscripted and free-flowing. I have met with the House Republican leader and am meeting with House Speaker Frank Chopp later this month to discuss ways to make the Legislature and the debate around issues more transparent to the public we serve.
I also had the opportunity to tour South Mental Health and Genoa Pharmacy in Auburn. These groups work together to serve those in our communities suffering with mental health issues. Not only do they help those in need get the medications they need, but together they provide after-care to help clients stay on track and follow-up with plans that make clients accountable to maintain their treatment. I am so proud to see this kind of service and the dedicated people who offer it every day to those in our communities.
After this year's legislative sessions, there was a lot of discussion about the role of each party and how they work for education. For my part, I believe actions speak louder than words. I voted against the budget this year mostly because I felt that sidestepping critical, cost-saving government reforms while cutting education was unacceptable. I had also objected to the January 2011 retroactive budget cuts to K-4 class-size enhancement dollars.
As I have felt there have been misperceptions between teachers unions and the Legislature, I arranged meetings with the leadership of both the Kent and Auburn Education Associations. I am happy to report we found common ground and clarified what areas we would benefit from further discussions. I let the groups know I understand education issues and I am on the side of teachers, students and parents when it comes to the state prioritizing its “paramount duty” – education.
Additionally, I met with stakeholders this week to discuss the implementation of my Innovations Schools legislation, House Bill 1546. While I am a little disappointed with how watered-down it was at the end of the amendment process, it is a good step in the right direction toward encouraging innovative solutions to provide our children the best education possible.
Finally, I was thrilled to be invited to attend the Aviation High School groundbreaking event. As a Boeing employee, it was nice to see the positive result of a public-private education venture that will help grow and educate the next generation of high-tech workers.
Moving goods and people around our region of the state is what keeps businesses operating. And indeed, relieving traffic congestion is essential to creating jobs and getting Washington working again. To compete with Canadian and California ports, we need to get our ports better connected to the warehouses in the Kent Valley and those efficiently connected to the rest of the state and destinations beyond.
As the assistant Republican leader on transportation issues, I participated in a forum on public-private partnerships – how they work and how we can find the best ways to use them as we move forward. At this forum and another forum on tolling in Washington state, we also talked about solutions for the completion of Highways 167 and 509 at the south end. I'm optimistic we will find a solution the public can support. I welcome your feedback!
Workfirst Oversight Task Force
As an instructor pilot for Boeing, I tend to focus on issues related to my field – education, transportation, jobs, the economy and budget and taxes. However, I was excited to be appointed to the interim Workfirst Oversight Task Force, which deals with state and federal assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The goal of this task force is to review entitlement programs and figure out if they are serving those they are intended to help and if we are doing all we can to stop fraud and abuse of these vital programs.
My father was a state Senator in Montana at the height of welfare reform and witnessed firsthand how it reshaped the federal budget. In my first discussion about the task force, I was happy to see an emphasis not just on sustaining people where they are, but moving people from welfare to meaningful, good-paying jobs. These are good objectives that need a serious look as we begin the 2012 legislative session Jan. 9.
I believe all of us must step up and partner with our local groups, faith-based and otherwise, as well as with government to help people get back on their feet with a hand up from public and private services.
The updated state revenue forecast will be put forward next Thursday, Sept. 15. All indications are that state tax collections are lagging far behind expectations. This means additional budget adjustments are on the way – at every level of government.
The governor has already asked state agencies to prepare a plan for 5 and 10 percent reductions. This is a good, proactive step, but I continue to worry about our state's budgeting process. Instead of budgeting on what we think we might have in tax collections, why not spend within current revenues? If we beat revenue expectations, we can put the extra away for a rainy day, protecting taxpayers into the future.
I will know more next week and will share what I learn with you. As always, I want to hear your thoughts on the budget situation and where you think we should find the reductions.
It has been so rewarding to receive so much constituent correspondence on the issues impacting the 47th District. I always welcome your thoughts and concerns. I am currently researching multiple issues brought up by constituents for possible legislation this next session. So, please, keep your letters, calls and e-mails coming. I respond to folks as soon as possible. If you would like an in-person meeting to discuss your thoughts, please let me know that when contacting my office. It's a pleasure to serve you!