Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The special session ended Wednesday, May 25. I complete this nearly five-month session with some accomplishments, some disappointments, and definitely determination for the future.
I entered my first term as 2nd District lawmaker during one of the most difficult economic times in Washington's history, and I was honored to serve when things were tough. I sat on four House committees, including being the only freshman on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
It was proven to me again that there are infinite demands on the state as I saw the number of requests made upon the Legislature for funding various programs. Last November, the people spoke clearly about wanting their government to live within its means – to do more with less as businesses and families in our communities have done. In Olympia, however, special interest groups lobbied for innumerable increased taxes. Everyone except the taxpayer has a lobbyist; that's why taxpayers elect us.
I am disappointed with the final budget passed in the 30-day special session of the Legislature. I could not support a budget I believe is not only unsustainable, but puts large social programs ahead of education, resulting in major cuts to our teachers and classrooms. As you know, I supported a more conservative proposal to prioritize education first, minimizing reductions to our classrooms and eliminating large social programs we know we will not be able to afford down the road. We have to face facts with our financial situation – making the difficult decisions now would have left us on a much better path in the future.
I am, however, pleased that our expenditures will be less than our revenue, unlike what we are seeing at the federal level. The budget also contains an emphasis on contracting services out to the private sector through the creation of a new enterprise-services agency to do some of the state's information technology work. Years ago, the state passed comprehensive civil service reform, which included provisions for competitive contracting. Unfortunately, few agencies have made the effort to do so. This year's budget makes important strides toward increasing the use of competitive contracting for non-essential services.
Getting Washington back to work was one of my top priorities, along with passing a sustainable budget. I was happy to support two measures which will assist both employers and workers. Early in the session, unemployment insurance reform was passed to help struggling workers and their employers. On May 23, I supported an important first step to reform the state's workers' compensation program.
Driving through my district, I'm constantly aware of the local shops, restaurants and small businesses that are struggling right now to keep their doors open and keep people employed. It was important for us to pass both these bills, as they recognize the importance of private-sector jobs and will help create more opportunities for people to work.
Serving on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, I heard many cases of agencies overstepping their bounds and harming private property owners and producers. I'm frustrated at the attack on the rural way of life during public hearings and the proposals we saw introduced. We take pride in our property , our work and our freedoms in the Second District. Several times this year I saw an assault on those ideals, and I stood up for them. I believe in common-sense conservation, and doing what works to protect our natural resources while ensuring economic viability for landowners.
I really enjoyed hearing from and meeting with some of you in Olympia. While we may not always agree, I am happy to have an open conversation with anyone about issues. I work for you, the people of the Second District, and I am glad when you hold me accountable.
As I schedule meetings and events during this “interim,” or time between sessions, I will keep you updated. If you would like me to speak with your group about the session, or sit down with you one-on-one about an issue, please don't hesitate to contact my office.
It's an honor to serve you.