Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As you know, the 2012 regular legislative session began Monday, Jan. 9. I have appreciated all the feedback you have offered me throughout the interim and during the December special session. I work for you and am here to represent you to the best of my abilities. Your involvement helps me make tough choices, so thank you and keep the comments and suggestions coming.
Below is my brief legislative update that I hope you find informative. My contact information is below.
Share your thoughts, ask questions during my telephone town hall meeting Jan. 17
You might have read in our local papers that I will be hosting a 47th District telephone town hall meeting on Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. Constituents are invited to call in to ask questions and listen to other residents' concerns around the district. The call will last one hour.
To participate, constituents should call the toll-free number 1-877-229-8493 and, when prompted, enter PIN number 17556. Once on the call, just press star 3 (*3) on your telephone keypad and a staff member will assist you with asking your question live.
Telephone town halls have proven to be a great tool to reach you and allow you to participate in the legislative process from home. Your feedback is critical as I work to address the large spending gap. I want you to know I am accessible and available to listen to your concerns and look at new ways of solving the challenges facing our state. The Legislature is designed to be the voice of the people and these calls help me connect with those of you who would not otherwise have the time to reach me or come to Olympia for a meeting. I truly look forward to hearing from you and hope you will join me on the call.
To schedule an appointment with me or if you need help dealing with or finding a state agency service, please call my legislative office at (360) 786-7918 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state budget
While there are a lot of issues coming to the forefront of the session, the single issue that must be solved is closing the state budget spending gap of roughly $1.5 billion. After that is resolved, we can discuss the many bills that have been introduced in this short, 60-day session.
As I have visited with folks around the 47th District, one fact I have shared is that despite the $2 billion dip in anticipated tax collections, which is what has left our budget in the red, our income is still $1.9 billion more. This is an increase in state tax collections of nearly 7 percent. Many individuals, families and businesses would love to see their paychecks and revenues rise by 7 percent.
As tax collections continue to grow, spending is simply outpacing the increase. I have heard some say that nearly $10.5 billion has already been “cut” from the budget. However, to me, a cut would mean if I cut my take-home pay by 5 percent. If I was promised a 5 percent raise and did not get it, I do not consider that a “cut.” Unfortunately, that's what many in the majority party and the governor's office are calling a cut – if programs did not get the increases they were promised, they call it a cut. There was recently a great article about the definition of a cut. You can read it here.
Finally, I am committed to working to create a sustainable budget that prioritizes spending. I believe education, public safety and protection of the truly vulnerable should be funded before any other state government programs. I would welcome your feedback on the budget.
Over the past couple of months I have received numerous cards from you with your concerns about education funding. I want you to know that I have read every one of them. It is particularly fun when I recognize names of those of you whom I know personally!
I share your frustration with the education funding situation in Washington State. A particularly awful example of a cut for which the majority voted was the retroactive cut to K-4 class size reduction funding last January. I voted “no.”
The Washington State Supreme Court has recently affirmed the state constitution's directive, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” This means the Legislature needs to adequately fund basic education. It has been difficult to determine how much funding basic education costs, because we never get to that question. Over the past many years, while every candidate and legislator has said he or she is for education, the Legislature has treated education like any other government program, not the paramount duty. So, instead of spending the first dollar on education funding, it gets the last dollar, which is evident in the governor's tax increase proposal.
My very first speech on the House floor last January was to argue that, since education is the paramount duty of the Legislature, we should fully fund it first, before we commit to any other spending. We need to spend our first dollar on education, not our last dime. Although the majority voted against this proposal, my caucus has proposed this for several years and is committed making it happen.
Instead of arguing that we need a new tax to pay for education, if education is funded first, it may be a bit more difficult to argue that we need a new tax for a $490,000 viaduct museum or a few million dollars each year to pay middle-class people to carpool to work.
Thank you to every one of you who wrote to me. I really do appreciate hearing from you and applaud you for your dedication to the noble cause of educating our children, especially with limited resources. If you see me around the district, please stop me and say, “Hello,” whether it's at Costco, a school event I'm attending, or even while I'm out running!