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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today the House and Senate passed a supplemental operating budget, House Bill 1086, to try and close the books on the remainder of the fiscal year by addressing the near $600 million shortfall in our current budget. Unfortunately, the bill we passed today still leaves us about $250 million short. It also makes retroactive cuts to K-4 class size reduction. In other words, it reverses money that was already allocated for teachers last year. That's simply bad policy. I believe our public schools should be our state's top budget priority, and we can no longer avoid much-needed reforms to our social services. For those reasons I voted against the budget bill. The governor has already signed it with several line-item vetoes.
In the Higher Education Committee this week, I was involved in bipartisan discussions about tuition rates and financial aid, specifically House Bill 1795 and House Bill 1666. I proposed amendments to HB 1666 to lock in tuition rates for each class of four-year students, and to create a new low-tuition category for students in the public interest fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. See this The News Tribune political blog.
On Thursday, the House Transportation Committee held a hearing on my bill, House Bill 1859, to change license tab renewal periods to two years. This would be more convenient for drivers, more efficient for the Department of Licensing, and more cost-effective, with potential two-year savings of almost $3.5 million.
But the real highlights of the past week, for me, did not take place in Olympia. They took place back home among friends and neighbors. Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the opening of the new MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital Patient Care Tower. It is an incredible addition to Puyallup and a world-class hospital facility with state-of-the-art-technology as well as amazing environmental and artistic features. It is the monument of our community's commitment to health care and quality of life.
Then, on Tuesday morning, I attended the ribbon cutting for Milton Way. It was a joy to join with Milton city leaders to celebrate their widened main street, new sidewalks, and most of all their enduring sense of community. As I drove to Olympia afterward I couldn't help but to think how much effort the city government and their contractors had invested in the project, and how much it meant to the people of Milton.
These two events are reminders, in the midst of difficult times, that we are blessed. Our communities remain strong, and we should never doubt the human and economic resources of a free people.
We can get through the tough budget crisis at hand. In the weeks ahead we are tasked with the difficult budget decisions necessary to preserve our core state services while making government leaner, more efficient, and more mindful of the people back home.
Thank you. Keep in touch.
468 John L.O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7968 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000