Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2020 legislative session is just around the corner. My seatmate, Rep. Mike Volz, and I are sending out a hard copy mailing that talks about some of the top issues we'll be dealing with next session. We also give you the opportunity to rank those issues in order of importance as well as offer you the chance to add more issues or give your own insights into potential solutions.
However, I also wanted to give you the opportunity to do this via electronic means. Here are the issues we think will be big this session. At the end of this list is a link to a quick online survey where you can rank these issues and offer feedback. I hope you can take a moment to voice your opinions and concerns. Hearing from you allows me to represent all of our collective needs and priorities.
Tax increases – Despite continuing record revenues, some in Olympia will always want more. We anticipate proposals for a tax on your income, a B&O tax increase, possible carbon tax, gas tax, vehicle-miles-traveled tax, and more. I continue to believe that Washington families have given plenty and that the state should live within its means.
Public safety – As I've traveled around the district – and even held a town hall meeting – it's become apparent that many of you feel our communities are becoming unsafe. I believe we need to refocus our efforts to protect our citizens, enforce existing laws, and support law enforcement. There are too many violent criminals and sex offenders being released back into our communities with not enough supervision or oversight.
Housing and homelessness – I've met with so many leaders on this issue over the past few months. We need to address the root causes of homelessness (drug addiction, mental health, lack of economic opportunity and affordable housing). We need to stop enabling destructive behavior and help people get clean, get treatment and get shelter.
Rural broadband – This is one of the most important economic tools we have to bring economic opportunity to rural Washington. Telemedicine, education opportunities, businesses, telework and more are all impacted.
Transportation – With Washington state voters approving I-976 ($30 car tabs), transportation funding will be huge next session. There will be efforts to increase the gas tax, implement a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, add more fees to the trucking industry, and more. We have several vital transportation projects in our region, including the north/south freeway. We will continue to pay close attention to this issue throughout session.
Education – While the heavy lifting of the McCleary decision fix is over, there are still tweaks to be made. We saw school levies barely pass this year – and some that didn't pass at all – as voters grew weary of the way some school districts doled out their significant increase in state funds. We want accountability, measurable outcomes, and more school choice.
Mental health reforms – There is a shortage of beds and services for our state's mental health needs. We need to invest in regional reforms and expand our behavioral health workforce. The state has spent millions on exclusive, state-run facilities like Western State, and it has not worked.
Access to health care – Do you have access to the primary care physicians, the specialists or the emergency care that you need? Has the lack of private health care insurance options impacted you and your family? Have you found the state-sponsored health care adequate for your needs? Access to affordable, quality health care continues to be an issue for our families and communities.
Veterans – With Fairchild Air Force Base and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school, we have a high concentration of veterans living in our region. We need to continue our work to make sure our veterans have access to the services and benefits they've earned.
Career-connected learning – Going to a college or university for a four-year degree is the right path for some, but not all. We need to expand our career and technical education opportunities so our kids are not saddled with debt.
What do you think?
Click here to rank the above topics in order of importance and to provide any solutions or ideas. You can also provide input on other topics that you think the Legislature should deal with.
As always, thank you so much for the honor of serving you in Olympia. If you ever need help with a state agency or have ideas on how to make our region the best place in the state to live, work and raise your family, please don't hesitate to contact me.