Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 60-day 2010 session began Jan. 11 and there are many opportunities for the Legislature to prepare our state for a prosperous economy in the future. This year we must pass a supplemental budget that balances our state's two-year budget. I'm also working on reforms to wildfire response and communication after the Dry Creek fire and protecting water rights for property owners and agriculturists.
Right now, the state has a shortfall of $2.6 billion from what we're currently spending on programs and services. On Friday, the House voted on what was called an “early savings” bill. In reality, it merely approved reductions and directives the governor and her agencies have already put into practice. I voted against the bill, because I felt that it was unnecessary since those reductions had already been made. The sooner we make systemic reductions in the state budget, the more sustainable we can make future state spending. I won't vote for a tax increase on hard working families and employers who are already struggling to make ends meet. Not only will it take more from their pockets, it would only serve to lengthen this recession.
CREATING JOBS AND RESTORING OUR ECONOMY
More than 7,000 people are looking for jobs in our district. My priority this session is to adopt reforms that help employers retain and create jobs. Washington is positioned to come out of this recession stronger than other states, if we make the right decisions in Olympia. Our strong trade industries, along with our diversified workforce, can set us apart from our neighbors to the south and east. Employers are struggling right now, and Washington doesn't exactly hang out a welcome sign for new businesses.
I'm supporting a plan to make “Made in Washington” mean something again and to foster the growth of Northwest companies to create good-paying jobs for generations to come.
- House Bill 2920 would stabilize the steep increases in unemployment insurance taxes that employers will be paying in the coming years.
- House Bill 1617 would put the burden of proof in agency rule disputes on the agency instead of the citizens.
- House Bill 2043 would require agencies to issue permit decisions within 90 days or the permit is automatically granted.
- House Bill 2879 would improve the efficiency of our workers' compensation system. The mission of workers' compensation is to assist employees who become sick or injured on the job. Right now, it's dysfunctional, and doesn't work well for employers or employees. We need to look at every option for reform so people get treated and back to work more quickly. Right now, the average number of days an employee is out of work and drawing workers' compensation is 266 days in Washington, three times the national average. (Oregon's average is 70 days)
You can read more about the plan to create jobs in Washington here.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Washington citizens pay 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Oregon pays a 9.4 percent income tax while Idaho pays 10.1 percent.
- Just 28 states require students to take financial literacy courses: Washington is not one of them.
- The average private employer pays 74 percent of health care benefits for an employee's family coverage plan, while Washington taxpayers pay 88 percent of state employees' health care benefit costs.
- Washington's food and agriculture industry employs 160,000 people and contributes 12 percent to the state's economy.
- Nearly $14.8 billion in food and agricultural products were exported through Washington ports in 2008, the third largest total in the U.S.
Last week, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held important hearings on water rights. I would like to highlight a few bills.
- House Bill 2542 would require a review of local land use planning and water availability. It would give local government options for addressing a shortage of water.
- House Bill 2548 would require agencies to provide some evidence before imposing a moratorium on water right applications.
- House Bill 2668 would allow property tax assessments to be revised when an action by an agency prevents access to water. An exempt well moratorium in Kittitas County b
y the Department of Ecology was devastating. There is a real concern such a moratorium could be placed on other counties in the state in the future.
You can find more water bills that receive a public hearing by viewing the committee agendas here.
SILLY BILLS…WE HAVE REAL ISSUES TO WORK ON
- House Bill 2416 would limit the size of TVs, based on a law passed in California.
- House Bill 2401 would legalize and tax marijuana.
- House Bill 2643 would address water quality at charitable car washes.
- Senate Bill 6249 would change references to “at-risk children” to “kids at hope”
- Senate Bill 6189 would create a sales tax on candy. Currently candy is exempt from sales tax.
If you have any questions about these or any issue, don't hesitate to contact me. I enjoy hearing from you. It's an honor to serve you.