Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2015 session is in full swing as legislators from across the state have convened in Olympia to work on solutions to the many challenges and opportunities facing our state today. As the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, I serve as the lead budget negotiator for my caucus. It is an honor to have my colleagues place their trust and faith in me, especially when there is so much angst surrounding the budget lately.
Speaking of the budget, there is a difference between what Olympia “wants” to spend and the amount of money we're expected to take in over the next biennium, thus creating the impression of a significant budget shortfall. While some seem to focus on this fact, I choose to focus on this one: our state will have around $3 billion MORE when we write this two-year operating budget! We should be thanking the hardworking taxpayers of this state who've struggled through some tough times and are slowly starting to rebound. Any talk of tax increases is premature. Let's focus our efforts on why $3 billion more in state revenues is not enough. Let's focus our efforts on finding the main cost-drivers in state government. Why are services costing more? Why is state government growing significantly faster than the budgets of the families and taxpayers who pay for it? These are issues I'll be working on over the next few months as we look toward finishing our business in the 105 days allotted for this session.
The House recently passed a bipartisan early action supplemental budget that taps into the state's Budget Stabilization Account (rainy day fund) to allocate emergency funds to the communities devastated by last year's Oso landslide and the Carlton Complex wildfires. In my mind, this is exactly what the rainy day fund is for. It takes a 60 percent vote to access and is specifically for unforeseen emergencies. The proposal also uses some general fund dollars to pay off a lawsuit against the state that is costing taxpayers around $20,000 per day in interest, so the sooner it's paid, the more taxpayers' money we save.
House Bill 1127 – This bill had a public hearing in the House Labor Committee on Feb. 2. It would create a safety and skills program for agriculture workers, hopefully allowing them to transition from a “job” to a “career.” A similar bill I sponsored last year passed the House 82-14 but died in the Senate. I continue to believe our communities are strongest when every citizen has the opportunity to maximize their earnings potential.
House Bill 1187 – This bill proposes the best practices for water banks.
House Bill 1232 – This bill was brought to me by a constituent. It requires employer-purchased fishing guide licenses to be given back to the employer if employment is terminated. It also makes that specific fish guide license transferable to another employee if the original employee is fired or quits employment.
House Bill 1233 – This bill specifies that the ability to withdraw a certain amount of groundwater for domestic purposes without first obtaining a permit from the department of ecology is not subject to relinquishment through nonuse. This will provide some landowners the opportunity to restart domestic wells that have gone unused.
I'll keep you updated on these bills and budget negotiations as the session progresses.
Staying involved – staying connected
I want to make sure you have every opportunity to be involved in what goes on in Olympia. This is YOUR government. Accessibility to the legislative information and action is paramount to being an involved citizenry. Here are a few ways you can stay connected this year:
- Capitol Buzz – A daily electronic clip service of House Republicans. Click here to subscribe.
- The Current – An online publication from House Republicans to include you in the legislative process. Click here to subscribe.
- Check out my website – www.representativebrucechandler.com. From this link, you can get more information about me, the bills I've sponsored and view my news releases.
- Photos – Access my photo gallery here.
- TVW – The state's own version of C-Span, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live. You can also watch on your computer, smartphone or tablet: www.tvw.org
- Legislature's website – You can get bill reports, committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov
- Legislative Hotline – 1-800-562-6000 – You can leave messages for me or other elected officials on issues and legislation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my e-newsletter. I appreciate your input as I work to represent you in Olympia. Please feel free to contact my office any time with your questions or concerns about state government.