Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The past few weeks included many late nights and long weekends as legislators debated, amended and passed legislation on the House floor. At this point in the session, House bills that are still alive are now over in the Senate to go through the committee process there, and Senate bills that have passed the Senate are now in House committees.
The House has passed a total of 351 bills to the Senate, while the Senate has passed 219 bills on to the House. All total, there are still 572 bills still alive – not counting those needed to implement the budget (NTIB Bills) – with about six weeks left in the 2011 Legislative Session.
Lately, I'm hearing a lot of conversation in our communities about adjustments made to the budget recently and how they will impact Washington citizens.
As most of you know, there is more heavy lifting ahead. Currently, our state budget deficit is still around $230 million for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The 2011-13 spending gap is projected to be nearly $5 billion (we'll know more after the next revenue forecast on March 17). I and many of my colleagues believe the best way to address our budget shortfalls and get the state back on solid financial footing is to focus on private-sector job creation and retention.
Many people don't think the two issues – state budget and job creation – go hand-in-hand, but they do. When employers are hiring, people are finding work. Those newly-employed people have more income to buy goods and services that boost other businesses so they can hire more employees who, in turn, generate tax revenue.
This additional revenue helps the state pay for education, transportation, public safety and critical services for the disabled and elderly. That's why every time we consider a bill, whether it is a health care or local government bill, we ask three questions:
- Does it protect or improve our state's competitive advantages?
- Does it create job opportunities for Washington families?
- Does it create certainty for employers?
I welcome your input as we strive to reduce the regulatory burden on our employers, encourage local economic development in our communities and work to protect education and the most vulnerable. Here is the schedule for our 8th District Town Hall Meetings this Saturday, March 12. I hope to see you at the town hall most convenient to you:
8:00 – 9:30 AM (Prosser)
Prosser Town Hall
Prosser City Hall Council Chambers
601 7th Street in Prosser
10:30 – Noon (Benton City)
Benton City Town Hall
Kiona-Benton High School, Performing Arts Center
1107 Grace in Benton City
1:30-3:00 PM (Richland)
Richland Town Hall
Richland City Hall Council Chambers
505 Swift Blvd. in Richland
4:00-5:30 PM (Kennewick)
Kennewick Town Hall
Kennewick City Hall Council Chambers
210 W 6th Ave. in Kennewick