Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week the Washington State Redistricting Commission adopted a plan to redraw lines for legislative and congressional districts. Here is the final legislative map unanimously adopted by the bipartisan commission after a year-long process. As you can see, the district I represent will be changing dramatically compared with the area I represent now. The final detailed report to the Legislature will be published Jan. 9, and the Legislature may make very minor adjustments within 30 days but does not vote on the overall plan. After this, with or without changes, the redistricting plan becomes law. The new districts will take effect for the November election this year. From the beginning, some members of the public and of the commission made it clear they wanted to establish a minority-majority district. You can read more in this Yakima Herald story. This is the main reason that 48,000 people were displaced between the 15th District and the 14th District. If you want to find out district you will be in next year, you can view this Google map and zoom in to find your neighborhood.
The special session ended Wednesday, Dec. 14, with the Legislature reducing spending just $480 million in response to a $2 billion shortfall. While this was a very small step, it was not enough and not what people expected to be accomplished in the special session. I joined colleagues to reduce the budget more in the House Ways and Means Committee, but these ideas were rejected in favor of adopting only the easiest reductions.
The regular session begins next Monday, Jan. 9. There continues to be talk of tax increases being sent to voters and fee increases for the Legislature to pass. My focus remains on ensuring we are providing the best value for your tax dollars. I am not convinced the state is being as efficient as it can be and providing the best services to constituents. The pattern I have seen is continued requests from agencies for more tax and fee dollars, with very little reform. The truth is that as soon as the door is opened to the possibility of tax increases, all talk of reform goes out the window.
Some have said state spending is now at 1980s levels, but this is just not true. Though the state's general fund has decreased somewhat, it is still on pace with late 1990s funding. When you take a look at total state funding, which includes fees and federal funding to state programs, spending per person continues to increase. This big picture is important when discussing programs and services provided by the state. Several of the functions of government have been moved out of the general fund, which is balanced by the Legislature. Transferring these funds and programs out of the general fund reduces transparency to the Legislature and the public.
The state is currently spending $9,561 for each one of us in the current budget.
Do you feel you are getting value from this spending? In our telephone town hall a couple weeks ago, Rep. David Taylor and I asked constituents if they believed the state was efficient with their tax dollars. Here is the response we received:
We must make government smaller, smarter and more responsive to the needs of citizens. The chart below compares the average compensation for state employees with private sector employees.
My greatest concern with this information is that when the economic downturn occurred, the public sector did not adjust in the same way the private sector did. Now the difference between these employees is nearly three times what it was just 10 years ago.
When we return to Olympia for the regular session beginning Jan. 9, we must act immediately to make responsible budget reductions so we are not constantly dealing with budget shortfalls, but rather focusing on making individuals and families in our state prosperous again.
It's an honor to serve you. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.