Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are couple weeks into the 2012 legislative session and there are a number of very controversial issues on the table to make what is supposed to be a very difficult session even tougher. Mother Nature decided to get into the act last week. We woke up to 14 inches of snow in Olympia last Wednesday morning. Obviously western Washington isn't fully equipped to handle such a storm and it is messy. Many meetings and events were cancelled. Public hearing attendance was spotty at best, but the Legislature moved forward and conducted business as usual.
For a quick overview of the second week of session watch my video update.
Technically the only action we need to take in the short session is necessary adjustments to the biennial budget passed the previous year.
This year our adjustments will be difficult as our budget shortfall is $1.5 billion. That means it is extremely important we stay focused on our task at hand and finally pass a sustainable, fiscally responsible budget with reforms that are long-term. Our state government needs to learn to live within its means like the citizens and businesses are trying to do during this difficult economic time.
To make the budgeting process even more difficult, the Washington State Supreme Court recently released its decision on McCleary vs. State, a case that challenges the adequacy of state funding for K-12 education under the Washington State Constitution. The short version of the decision is that the Legislature is not meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic public education. You can read the full decision here.
Our caucus has repeatedly stated, fund education first, and now we are looking at drawing up an education-only budget to ensure education gets the first dollars of the budgeting process, not the last.
The other critical issue the Legislature must focus on is improving the economy. We must continue the push for appropriate reforms to ease the burden on small businesses in Washington state so they can retain and create jobs, and provide us with a sustainable economic recovery. I am working on some legislation to help our small employers and improve the business climate of our state.
I appreciate your input and feedback and the budget and the many other issues before the Legislature. Please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions and comments.