Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Jeff Morris Legislative Update

Welcome to my latest E-Newsletter! I appreciate your taking the time to read it.

As you know, we are now in a 2nd special legislative session here in Olympia. As frustrating as that is, my colleagues and I were not willing to devalue our original goal of building a Washington that works for everyone. We are still standing strong on fully funding education, which includes supporting our teachers, restoring fairness to our tax system, and providing essential state services to our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Meanwhile, the negotiations continue, and it is my hope that we will come to a fair and equitable agreement with the Senate soon.

A new addition to our ferry fleet

M/V Samish, the state’s newest 144-vehicle ferry, took its place in the Washington State Ferries fleet at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 20, at the Anacortes ferry landing.

It’s been more than 12 years of advocating for new ferries, securing funding after passage of the $30 license tabs, and finding the right process to construct the vessels. These new Olympic Class ferries are an important link to the San Juan Islands and Anacortes, not just for the people who live there, but for the tourism trade and commerce that keeps our small businesses and the island economy moving.

The new 144-car vessels also are important to the safety of the millions of people who use Washington state’s ferries each year. These new ferries are replacing our oldest boats in the fleet – some that are 40- to 60-years old.

Each state transportation budget is different, and there are a lot interests competing for funds. We’ve been discussing the need and funding sources for two new larger ferries going back 12 years. In 2009 I was able to expedite construction of these ferries by two years, and in 2013 secured funding for a third Olympic Class vessel. The ferries’ newer technology will also help save the state money in reduced fuel costs, and protect the environment by reducing carbon gas emissions.

It is really humbling for me to have worked so hard on an issue and then see it come to fruition. I’m also pleased this ferry is named after the Samish Tribe, whose familiar territory is encompassed by the 40th District. My grandfather, Jinks Blackinton, was a Samish Tribal member who lived on Guemes Island.

The maiden voyage of the Samish ferry to Friday Harbor took place on Sunday, June 14.

Reinvesting in Washington means investing in our teachers

What’s the best way to make sure every child succeeds in school and life? It’s pretty simple really – by having the best possible teacher in every classroom.

But how can we attract high quality educators if we continue to offer inadequate compensation and raise their health care costs?

If we don’t demonstrate that we value good teachers, we’ll lose them to the private sector, which can offer higher pay and better benefits. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn the corner and invest in our kids by investing in their teachers.

It’s been six years since teachers received a cost-of-living adjustment from the state. During the Great Recession our state saw massive revenue shortfalls during those down years, and forced the Legislature to make difficult decisions. We had to cut more than $12 billion since 2008 to balance the budget. Unfortunately, some of those cuts came at the expense of our teachers. Their salaries were frozen while their bills kept going up.

Continuing to balance the books on the backs of teachers is irresponsible and wrong.

As we continue budget negotiations with the Senate, keep in mind the House makes a significant investment in education and our teachers, the details of which can be found here. The Senate Republican budget comes up short for our kids.

Senate Republicans proposed a smoke-and-mirrors budget, full of unsustainable gimmicks that kick our problems down the road another two years. Many senators openly talk about defying the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund our public schools.

That’s not leadership.

How can you invest in education if you don’t invest in educators?

No kid in Washington should go hungry

Think back on a time when your work suffered because you skipped a meal – your stomach growling and your mind so preoccupied with food that it was hard to concentrate on your work. Now imagine skipping meals day after day and consider how difficult it would be to do well in school or succeed at work.

For many people, money is stretched too tight to feed their families properly. In Washington, 20 percent of our kids live in a household where there isn’t enough to eat. The investments we make in public schools won’t help a kid who is malnourished and hungry.

The House budget recognizes the importance of ending hunger for these kids. Our budget restores full funding for the state food assistance program. We add money to emergency food programs so food banks can continue to meet demand. And, we fund “Breakfast after the Bell,” so low-income students can eat breakfast at the beginning of their school day, increasing their chances at academic success.

The Senate budget makes no additions to any state food program.

Food matters. It matters to our moods, our health, and it makes a difference in our success. Let’s make sure that everyone in Washington has enough to eat.

Thanks again for your support and interest. As always, please contact my office through emails or a phone call with issues that concern you. Receiving your input helps me to be a better legislator.