Greetings from Olympia! Today is the 47th day of our 60 day session. The end is in sight! A lot has happened since my last email – various cutoffs, budgets introduced, etc. I hope this email can give you a little look into what I’ve been working on, and where things currently stand in Olympia. Below you’ll see an update on corporate accountability, our supplemental budget including McCleary investments, our transportation budget, and updates on my bills.
Holding corporations accountable for paying their fair share
When the legislature passed the largest tax break in state history, we entered into a partnership with Boeing that we believed would benefit Washingtonians – they would ensure jobs in Washington in exchange for the tax break. Unfortunately, since passing the legislation we have seen aerospace jobs leaving the state. This is a two-way partnership, and it is entirely reasonable for Washington state to have the same protections in place as other states. My colleague, Rep. June Robinson, has introduced legislation to hold Boeing accountable for maintaining the number of Washington employees Boeing had in 2013.
Other large corporations are getting away with using tax breaks never meant for them and it’s time they’re reined in. I was proud to join with a group of my colleaguesto introduce a package of billsto bring accountability back to our tax system. Tax exemptions used for private corporate jets don’t benefit regular Washington taxpayers. Tax exemptions meant for small banks, but being used by Goldman Sachs and Barclays, don’t benefit middle-class Washingtonians struggling to make ends meet. There has been a lot of talk about accountability around Olympia these past few weeks, but this is what real accountability looks like.
Meeting the needs of Washington families This week the House Democrats released our proposed 2016 supplemental budget. Every legislative session gives us an opportunity to make critical investments that keep families safe and address other emergent needs like the homelessness crisis. Our budget includes funding for:
- Helping the homeless, especially kids and families – There are more than 35,500 homeless students in Washington. This is a moral tragedy. Our proposal makes a number of investments in critical services to reduce homelessness, including services specifically intended for homeless students and their families.
- Improving lives for foster children – All of Washington’s children deserve an opportunity to succeed. We’re investing in resources to improve the lives of foster kids by increasing the number of foster families in Washington.
- Continuing to fix mental health care – We must make improvements to get our loved ones the care they need. This proposal will help us provide higher quality care with additional hospital staff and create safer environments for both patients and staff.
Continuing to lead the way on education funding
Fulfilling our paramount duty to the one million school kids in Washington is about more than fully funding schools. We must have the right policies in place that ensure all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed. Time and again, House Democrats have led the way on those policies, like expanding all-day kindergarten and reducing K-3 class sizes. Part of fully funding education is tackling the teacher shortage crisis facing the state. We need to attract, train and retain bright new teachers to educate our kids and keep our promise to fully fund education by ensuring there is a quality teacher in every classroom. The House Democratic budget proposal will help do that by:
- Increasing beginning teacher salaries – It’s hard to attract new teachers when the starting salary won’t allow them to make their student loan payments. This investment will set the beginning teacher salary at $40,000.
- Supporting classified staff and paraeducators – Schools need more than teachers to create a good learning environment for kids. This budget proposal will fund retention of quality staff throughout the school and provide professional development for paraeducators, important school employees who work with students with developmental or physical disabilities.
- Supporting beginning teachers – Programs to support educators in the beginning of their careers helps them to become better teachers for our kids and gives them the tools for success. This proposal invests in early career teachers so they can have long, successful careers in the field.
Paying to recruit and retain quality teachers
We often hear politicians saying they want to improve education, but these promises fall flat when it comes to actually paying for it. Washington state has fallen behind in teacher pay.
Our Transportation Budget: Safe Roads, Better Commutes
This week House Democrats, led by Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn, released our 2016 supplemental transportation budget, which will help improve commutes, create jobs, and keep our roadways safe. You can read all the details about it here. I have heard from many of you about the changes to I-405, and we are listening. The House Democrats included down payments on $18 million in improvements to the I-405 corridor, including a northbound auxiliary lane and a new general purpose lane between SR 527 and I-5. The Washington State Transportation Commission is directed to conduct emergency rulemaking to provide toll relief on evenings, weekends, and holidays. We also moved up funding for the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge so that the bridge will open when the Northgate light rail station opens in 2021, and I inserted a language directing WSDOT to evaluate how light pollution can be minimized on WSDOT facilities (there are lots of lights on our state highways).
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
While my bill (House Bill 2307) was passed by a bipartisan majority in the House, the Republican chair of the Senate committee it was assigned to refused to schedule it for a hearing, and it died. At the same time though, a very similar bill was passed by the Senate. I have been working with stakeholders, the Senate sponsor, and my colleagues to ensure that this bill continues moving towards becoming law, while making sure that it gives meaningful protections for pregnant workers. The bill is still alive, and I have faith that we will reach agreement and pass this landmark legislation.
REUnfortunately my bill to close loopholes in our distracted driving laws failed to make it out of committee before cutoff. After passing the House Transportation committee, it did not make it out of Appropriations before cutoff. This is an issue I care about deeply, and will continue to work on in future sessions.