Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With less than two weeks remaining in the 2015 regular session, negotiations on the budget are well underway. As I have said previously, we have a few factors working in our favor, including a 9 percent increase in revenue collections for the 2015-17 budget cycle. In my last video update, I compared the House and Senate budget proposals. These proposals will now be negotiated to produce the final budget. With hard work and political will, I believe we can negotiate a balanced budget that prioritizes spending and does not raise taxes. If we do this hard work, I believe we can adjourn on time for only the second time in the past six years.
Even though our primary focus is the operating budget, the House and Senate continue to pass bills dealing with a wide range of policy issues. This includes my first bill, House Bill 1819, which is now headed to the governor's desk to become law. We have also passed both the transportation maintenance, and capital (construction) projects budgets. Passing these budgets are important steps to completing our work on time.
House Democrats released their transportation revenue package this week and voted it out of committee Tuesday night. I voted against this package because it did not include reforms that I believe are necessary to ensuring accountability and efficiency at WSDOT. Without the reforms that were included in the Senate package, including exempting projects from paying sales tax and prohibiting low carbon fuel standards, I believe it is inappropriate to consider increasing the gas tax on Washingtonians. We are far from a final package, and I will continue to work on this issue to ensure taxpayers get the best return on their transportation dollars.
With the 2015 regular session winding down, we are beginning to plan for the interim. I am excited to get back home and spend time working in our community. I look forward to visiting community groups, schools, and businesses throughout the 17th District and bringing those experiences back to the Legislature. Having the opportunity to work in our communities and bring local priorities to state government is what makes our citizen Legislature so special. I look forward to seeing you around town soon!
My first bill heads to the governor's desk.
I am pleased to report that my first bill, House Bill 1819, was passed unanimously by the Senate last week. This bill addresses an important safety issue by requiring individuals who make an appointment to inspect a campaign or candidates account books, as allowed under current law, to present photo identification at the time of inspection. It would add a measure of assurance and protection to those serving as treasurers. I look forward to the governor signing this bill into law in the coming weeks.
Thank you for joining my telephone town hall.
I greatly appreciate those of you who took the time to join the telephone town hall I hosted with Rep. Paul Harris. Your voice continues to guide my work in Olympia, and I am grateful for your input.
Here are the results of the poll questions we asked during the telephone town hall:
Question #1: Do you support a statewide increase of the minimum wage to $12 per hour?
32.5 percent – Yes
43.4 percent – No
15.7 percent – Only if it includes other policy changes such as a training wage for youth
8.4 percent – Undecided
Question #2: Do you support the governor's carbon mandates that include a carbon tax, a carbon cap-and-trade plan, and a low-carbon fuel standard that might be imposed without approval of the Legislature, or do you think the state should promote less punitive incentives to lower carbon and other emissions?
14.3 percent – Yes, support the governor's mandates
65.1 percent – No, I support other incentives
20.6 percent – I don't know/Have no opinion
Question #3: Under what circumstances would you support an increase in the gas tax to fund transportation improvements?
6.3 percent – I would support a gas tax increase right now
12.5 percent – I would support a gas tax increase if it paid for local projects in the 17th District
18.8 percent – I would support a gas tax increase if it paid for local projects AND there were reforms to the transportation system
62.5 percent – I would not support a gas tax increase under any circumstances
I am proud to have joined both the Rail Caucus and the Sportsmen's Caucus.
Recently, I joined two bipartisan groups of legislators focused on important issues in our district. The Rail Caucus explores issues relating to the railroad industry and how to improve movement of goods and people as well as safety. This an important issue in Clark County and across the state as we work to ensure our railways are maintained to provide safe passage of goods and people. I am excited to lend Clark County's voice to this important discussion.
The Sportsmen's Caucus is affiliated with the National Sportsmen's Caucus of which there are chapters in 39 states. We are committed to enhancing the environment, and protecting the resources and freedom that help our economy, as well as provide opportunities for those who hunt and fish. Our district, and state, has a proud sporting heritage, and I am proud to work with members from both parties to ensure those opportunities are preserved for generations to come.
Vancouver high school students serves as House Page.
This week, I was proud to sponsor Sedona Wilcox in the Legislative Page Program. Sedona is a ninth grader at Fort Vancouver High School. During her time in Olympia, Sedona was able to participate in the opening ceremonies for session by assisting as a flag bearer. She also spent time learning about the legislative process and assisting legislators on the House floor. I really appreciate when young adults get civically involved and are truly interested in the workings of our state government.
For more information on the House Page Program, click here.
Here's a look at my plans for the interim.
As the Legislature prepares to conclude the 2015 regular session, I am preparing to return home and excited to get to work in our district. Throughout the summer and fall, committees will meet periodically to learn about issues and discuss solutions. These are important opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the effects our decisions in Olympia have on the rest of Washington state, and hear directly from those affected by them.
As a member of the Public Safety Committee, I have already begun to reach out to our local law enforcement community, including the Clark County Sheriff's Department, to have them involved in our interim work groups. In the coming days, we will finalize the interim work schedule and I look forward to sharing that with you. I am committed to having local law enforcement at the table for these important public safety discussions.
I have also received a number of requests from members of our community to visit with their groups, and tour their schools and businesses. If you would like me to visit your group, school, or business, I am always available to do so. I greatly enjoy spending time in our community hearing directly from you. Please contact my office to make arrangements.
Yours in service,
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000