Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I feel fortunate to be home among family, friends and local leaders this week. It has been filled with in-district meetings and one meeting in Olympia. Unfortunately, that Olympia meeting was not related to the state supplemental budget. We are now finishing the third week of the 30-day special session and no significant progress has been made on a solution that will address the spending gap of roughly $1 billion. So, we’re all still waiting to hear word of when we will be called back to vote on a budget and finish the work that was supposed to be completed on March 8. We’re reading in newspapers that another special session may be at hand, but I am remaining hopeful that it will not be necessary.
In the meantime, I am taking the opportunity to meet with constituents around the 9th District on issues related to the budget, stormwater permit changes, education and taxes. If you would like to schedule a meeting with me, please feel free to contact my legislative office and we’ll work out a mutually agreeable time and location. I hope this brief update is informative. Please call, e-mail or write me with your thoughts.
In service to you,
Special session: Week three
Budget negotiators are still meeting with no final result yet. We are in the third week of the fifth special session in the past two years aimed at dealing with the same problem – an unsustainable budget. Schools planning their budgets, seniors concerned about long-term care funding and our developmentally disabled citizens relying on state employment and other services are in limbo without a solid plan to balance the budget in a way that prioritizes government services in a sustainable way.
In the absence of a budget plan from the majority party in the House and Senate, House Republicans took the leadership role to open negotiations with the majority party and the public by offering a solid budget plan that balanced spending with tax collections through a process called Priorities of Government (POG). In February, we offered the first budget solution – one that funded education first, in a separate budget. Then we prioritized public safety and services for the most vulnerable with the remaining tax dollars. I support a healthy dialogue on where your $30-plus billion in tax dollars will be spent, and our budget was a good starting point for the discussion. I want to again thank my legislative colleague and trusted friend Rep. Gary Alexander for his commitment to this effort. Gary leads our budget discussions with the other three caucus negotiators, and I have confidence the best interests of all Washington citizens are well represented.
We are committed to balancing the budget in a responsible way, which also means leaving a healthy reserve to buffer future economic ups and downs. Our budget proposal left some room for compromise and spending adjustments moving forward. Our budget was set aside by the majority in the House, but we remain convinced that the solution to the current budget shortfall lies within the confines of a priorities of government and balanced budget approach. Your continued feedback supports this approach.
Budget negotiators are still at the table working to find common ground. These decisions impact people’s lives, and they must be thoughtful and realistic. Compromise goes both ways, and I believe everyone is working in good faith to find a solution we can all support. For me to support a budget, it must be prioritized – education, public safety and services for the most vulnerable – and it must leave a reserve that can weather the bumps we are seeing right now.
I will continue to advocate for a speedy resolution that puts our state on a path to balanced budgets for years to come. The Seattle Times had an editorial this week expressing the need for the right budget fix, not just any fix that gets lawmakers out of town. You can read it here. I will update you when I have more information to share.
Economy and jobs
My concern for the budget is matched only by my concern for job growth and the troubling news on home devaluation. While there was a press release sent out from the state Employment Security Department touting that our jobless rate dropped to an estimated 8.2 percent, there are some conflicting reports (here and here) about jobless numbers going up in areas of the state. What this tells me is we are still in uncertain times, and our job-creation engine, small business, is holding back to see what new government regulations, fees and possible tax increases will be placed on them.
If we cannot advance policies that encourage job growth in our state, we’ll continue to see other states poaching our employers, or at least attempting to give them a deal to move their business out of Washington in favor of a better business environment. This year, I learned that a large, Washington-based agriculture company was looking to expand operations and build a new warehouse for its growing business. When they compared several states based
on their business-friendly environments, including taxes, permitting and environmental regulations, Washington state lost out to..guess…California! We simply cannot afford to be losing jobs when we have roughly 300,000 people unemployed and many more who are underemployed.
I supported a pro-jobs agenda we put forward, and you can watch the video I participated in and read about the plan here.
Plenty! Communities are beginning to plan for their annual events. Counties are gearing up for their fairs. Our schools are getting ready to hold their graduation ceremonies. Additionally, school districts are starting their budgeting process. The Legislature’s delay in completing its budget will soon create problems for our school districts because they can’t make definitive plans until they know what the state budget is going to be. I was in Pomeroy this week visiting with Superintendent Kim Spacek about this very issue. The House Education Committee staff and I are scheduling visits to 9th District schools. During our meeting, Kim and I spent time planning for our visit to Pomeroy, pending any legislative activity in Olympia.
A big thanks to Shan Kelly, Kincaid Real Estate of Colfax; Jim DeVleming, Pullman Vision Source; Henry Johnston, Wysup Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep of Pullman; and Carl Bell with the Pullman Police Department for carving time out of their busy schedules to meet with me this week.
I am looking forward to Inland Power & Light’s annual meeting Saturday where more than 1,000 of its customers will be on hand. Saturday evening, I’ll be in St. John at the annual crab feed, which is another opportunity to visit with constituents and hear firsthand what’s on your mind.
Pullman Chamber’s annual dinner and auction, “Cabaret,” will be held Saturday, April 7, at the SEL Event Center. Pomeroy’s “Spring Farming Days” will be held April 6-7. The city of Palouse will hold a spring expo Saturday, April 14, in its new community center. Palouse resident and Pullman Chamber Executive Director Marie Dymkosi, told me this week that all the events in the new center have had “overflow crowds.” Habitat for Humanity will host “Beans & Jeans,” which supports its homebuilding efforts across the Palouse, on April 21 at James Toyota on the Pullman-Moscow Highway. The Colfax Chamber of Commerce is hosting a wine tasting at Hil-Ray Retirement Center April 27. The fair season officially begins with the Asotin County Fair that takes place the final week of April with activities for every member of the family. These are just the April activities! We have a full spring, summer and fall schedule of events ahead.
I am truly grateful to live in and represent such a family-friendly and diverse area and look forward to seeing many of you at events around the 9th District.
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