Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
You received this email report because you are a 20th Legislative District resident. Under election-related rules, Senators who are up for re-election later this year – including me – are allowed to send two e-newsletters to those who have not actively subscribed to them. If you wish to continue to receive additional updates you must subscribe. I hope you will take a moment to sign up so I may provide you with more news directly from the Capitol. Just click on the link below.
We are halfway through the 2016 legislative session. As you may know, this is a supplemental budget year during which minor adjustments are made to the two-year budget adopted at the end of the 2015 session. That budget is a good, hard-fought plan that prioritizes state spending and keeps government living within its means. This year is about making minor mid-course corrections based on information we didn’t have a year ago, such as actual wildfire fighting costs or actual school enrollments for 2015-16. This is similar to what a family might do for its home budget, where spending may be more in one area or less in another depending on the month.
We do have a couple surprises to deal with. Although K-12 education is being fully funded as required by law, challenges remain regarding reliance on local school levies which are regressive for rural districts like ours. Areas that are more urban with higher property values are able to provide more local resources, while the districts with lower property values are left with gaps in their funding. I am very concerned about this issue and want to find a fair approach that enables all students in our state to receive a quality education – one that isn’t dependent solely on a student’s ZIP code.
Another education policy issue our Senate majority is addressing relates to charter schools. Late last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the way the state funds charter schools is unconstitutional. The solution for this doesn’t cost the state additional money since our budget already planned to fund school choice options; it’s simply a matter of providing funding in a slightly different way. The Senate approved legislation that I co-sponsored, Senate Bill 6194, which reenacts Initiative 1240 to authorize charter schools with a specified funding source. The state House of Representatives has yet to take action on this legislation.
Adding to our budget challenge is the cost of mismanagement at the state Health Care Authority which has resulted in a half-a-billion budget shortfall over four years. That level of overspending is hard to deal with in a supplemental budget year. In addition to this general mismanagement, we’ve seen multiple failures over the years in providing required reports to the Legislature. The promises we received of cost savings have fallen well short.
Part of our work this year is to go through each state agency’s budget, making minor adjustments that prioritize our investments for Washington and ensure your tax dollars are spent wisely. Aside from K-12 funding and the Health Care Authority, our state must also address its response to wildfires. There must be improvements to how our state prevents and responds to wildfires to reduce the devastating effects on communities around our state. Costs to address last year’s fire season are estimated to be $165 million. This is significant because these are resources that could have been put to better use.
Economic Sense: Who Makes our Laws?
During each legislative session I take an in-depth look at significant economic policy issues. The most recent edition of my “Economic Sense” policy paper concerns administrative rule making. My legislative proposal will rein in executive agencies that have increased the number of rules, which have the force and effect of law, by 38 percent over the past decade. The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) now contains 22,000 pages of rules that impact every aspect of our lives. The problem is that those rules are made by unelected and unaccountable agencies with minimal input from the public. My bill, SB 6396, will require all new rules to automatically sunset the year following their enactment unless legislative action is taken.
Click here to read this most recent edition of “Economic Sense” and take a look at my website to catch up on previous editions on topics ranging from state employee compensation to higher education.
How much in state government should be secret from the public?
I have reintroduced legislation to ensure that Washington citizens get the transparency they deserve when it comes to negotiations with the public’s money. Senate Bill 5329 would require that collective-bargaining negotiations with public employee unions be subject to Washington’s open meetings requirement. Those meetings are currently exempt from public input; however, I believe citizens in our state should have the right to see how those negotiations are conducted when it is taxpayers who are ultimately responsible for paying the bill. Click here to read more.
This past December I conducted a district-wide survey on policies that the Legislature might be addressing this year. Thank you to all who took time to respond and provide invaluable feedback on these critical legislative issues. I have posted the results of the survey on my website. Please click here to see the results and don’t forget to subscribe to my e-newsletter updates to continue receiving information about your state government.
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Olympia, WA 98504-0420
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