After a wild and crazy couple of days, we wrapped up the 2011 Legislative session Wednesday, May 25. While, I enjoyed my time in Olympia, I am so glad to be back home!
Heading into interim, I am looking forward to meeting more of the people of the 40th district and working for the issues that matter to them. If you know of an event that I should attend or just want to chat, please let me know!
As you know, the session was dominated by the 2011-13 operating budget. Early in the final week of special session, negotiators in the House and Senate agreed to a two-year budget that preserves basic services like education, public safety, and health care for the most vulnerable.
But it also includes about $4.5 billion in deep cuts that will touch the lives of people across the state. No area of the budget was left untouched this year. Reductions greater than $50 million each include:
- $1.2 billion from suspension of Initiatives 728 and 732
- $535 million in a general reductions to higher education institutions (in part, offset with increased tuition revenue)
- $344 million from making changes to how certain future pension benefits are calculated for Plan 1 retirees
- $215 million from elimination of the K-4 class size enhancement
- $179 million from a K-12 employee salary reduction
- $177 million from a 3 percent reduction in state employee salaries
- $150 million from hospital rates and related changes
- $129 million from changes to the Basic Health Plan
- $116 million in reduced Disability Lifeline cash grants (the remaining funding for the cash grant program is transformed into a housing program)
- $97 million for reduced personal care hours for long term care and developmentally disabled clients
- $61 million from changes to the K-12 National Board Bonus program
- $57 million in student assessment system changes
These were among the many difficult but responsible decisions made in the face of the worst recession our state has seen in 75 years. You can get a complete breakdown of the budget here, and feel free to call my office if you have specific questions.
In addition to the budget, 444 individual pieces of legislation were passed, some of which I’ve written to you about in the past few months. Many of those bills were designed to spur job creation and economic recovery. For example:
- Our transportation budget will put 30,000 people to work across the state; the capital budget will create another 15,000 jobs.
- To help those who still haven’t found a job get through these tough times, we temporarily increased unemployment benefits while decreasing the unemployment insurance rates for 65,000 Washington businesses – saving them nearly $300 million this year alone.
- We authorized a student loan program for people who need financial help in order to pursue training at the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center or the Spokane Aerospace Technology Center. Washington’s 650 aerospace companies and their highly-skilled workers have made us the world leader in aviation and living-wage aerospace jobs, and this step will help us maintain that status for decades to come.
Local students get an up-close view of the legislative process
Since 1891, young people from across the state have come to Olympia to serve as pages for the Washington State House of Representatives. Paging presents students with a unique educational opportunity to participate in the legislative process.
Page duties are varied. They range from ceremonial tasks such as presenting the flags to operational chores like distributing amendments during legislative sessions. Each job is vital to the efficient operation of the Legislature.
This session, I was honored to sponsor several young people from our local communities to serve as pages.
Here is more information about the student page program in the House. Please pass it on to young people you think might be interested in applying next year.
It’s hard to believe that, even though we just finished this session, it’s time to start planning for next year. I appreciated all of the feedback I received during the session, and I hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with me as we move forward. It is an honor to serve you and the people of the 40th district!