Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you to all who have contacted my office these past few weeks. Your input is so valuable as I make decisions in Olympia on your behalf. Please keep the phone calls, letters and e-mails coming. Your voice is an integral part of our form of government.
This year legislators will be crafting our next two-year operating budget. The good news is that our state is expecting to take in around $3 billion more in taxes over the next two years! As lawmakers, we should be thanking the hardworking families and taxpayers in this state for their continued perseverance through these tough economic times. We will now spend the next couple of months determining how best to spend that extra money. While some in the Legislature cry doom and gloom over the difference between what Olympia “wants to spend” and the amount of revenue we're expected to have, I look at it as an opportunity to prioritize spending, invest more in K-12 and higher education, and ensure your tax dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. Any talk of tax increases at this time is obscenely premature.
Speaking of the budget, last week the House passed an early action supplemental budget that taps into our state's rainy day fund (which takes a 60 percent vote) to provide relief for the communities devastated by last year's Oso landslide and the Carlton Complex wildfire. I supported this measure because I believe this is exactly what the rainy day fund is for – unforeseen disasters or emergencies that the state can't ignore or plan for. The Senate may amend the proposal, but as it passed the House there was still nearly $500 million in the Budget Stabilization Account (rainy day fund).
The proposal also pays for a lawsuit against the state. By paying that lawsuit now and not waiting until the final two-year operating budget that will most likely pass at the end of session, we save taxpayers nearly $20,000 per day in interest.
One of my bills, House Bill 1485, is receiving broad support after a public hearing and has a strong chance of being voted out of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. My proposal seeks to address the shortage of family medicine physicians in rural areas by establishing incentives for hospitals and clinics to develop or expand residency programs in shortage areas. This is a critical step in ensuring our underserved areas have adequate primary health care physicians for decades to come. Unless we do something soon, the shortage of doctors in rural and underserved areas will reach a critical stage. I'll keep you updated on this bill as the session progresses.
Gov. Inslee continues his push for a cap-and-trade or “carbon tax”
Despite the indisputable fact that Washington is one of the cleanest state's in the nation with less than 3/10's of one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, our governor continues his misguided attempts to implement a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. His plan would place a “carbon tax” on so-called big polluters to pay for transportation projects and other areas of state government. His list includes some important job creators in our region like Agrium Kennewick Fertilizer Operations, ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston and JR Simplot. Energy producers would also be impacted. The net result would be higher consumer costs for goods, services, fuel and energy production with nearly immeasurable “environmental” outcomes. To reiterate, if we got rid of every car, truck, plane, boat, smokestack, chimney, person and flatulent bovine in this state, global greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by less than 3/10's of one percent! This is less than the margin of error for estimating China's yearly output.
The point is, with clean, renewable and GREEN hydro power, nuclear, wind, solar and biomass power production in our state, Washington is already leading the way. Attempting to implement a risky cap-and-trade system right now seems more like ideology than sound policy. We should be focused on solutions for the next generation not the next election.
I would like to invite you to attend my district coffee hour on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to discuss the 2015 legislative session. The event will be held in the Commons area of the CSA Building, 719 Jadwin Ave. in Richland.
On Monday, Feb. 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I will be joining my seatmates, Rep. Brad Klippert and Sen. Sharon Brown for our 8th District telephone town hall meeting. I invite you to participate by calling (509) 590-4711. If you want to ask a question during the hour-long “community conversation,” just press the star (*) button on your telephone keypad. I hope you can join with us and your neighbors in learning more about key issues and hearing questions from other concerned citizens.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my e-mail update. I appreciate your involvement and your input as we work together to make Washington a better place to live, work and raise a family.