Friends and neighbors,
I am sending you a quick update after taking a couple of days to recover from some very late nights and marathon floor sessions, including debating bills until sunrise on Saturday. But it was all worth it because we adjourned right at midnight! The last time the Legislature finished on time in a budget year was 2009.
Click on the image below to watch the Sine Die ceremony.
There’s so much to report on these 105 days, that I can’t pack it all in one newsletter, so we’ll break it up in installments. This one is focused on the transportation budget and the bills I prime-sponsored that made their way to the governor’s desk.
Expect future newsletters on the operating budget, strengthening our workforce, and environmental victories.
As always, if you want additional information or just to tell me what’s on your mind, please get in touch. Elsa and I are back in our district office, at 425-453-6424.
Transportation Budget Highlights
This was my first year in a fiscal committee; as one of the vice chairs, it was exciting to see all the moving pieces that go into writing a truly bipartisan budget that keeps Washington moving safely and efficiently.
This budget will allocate more than $9 billion to maintain our transportation infrastructure, support jobs, and address issues that affect working families all over the state.
You can find a complete list of projects in this interactive map, but some of the highlights include:
- Green transportation investments, including converting to hybrid-electric ferries and incentivizing the adoption of electric vehicles.
- Passenger rail service, encouraging development around transit hubs and other options.
- Corridor improvements for major highways like I-5 through JBLM and I-405 from Renton to Bellevue. Making changes to major thoroughfares will help connect Washington and carry people and goods across our state.
- The pilot Kirkland Transit-Oriented Development Project to demonstrate how appropriate WSDOT properties may be used for multiple public benefits such as affordable and market-rate housing, commercial development and institutional facilities, in addition to transportation.
- Expanding a pilot program that I was excited to sponsor last year to provide ORCA cards in summer to high school students, in a handful of school districts, who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and have jobs or other responsibilities during the schools’ summer breaks.
- Driver’s license support to more foster youth in the TreeHouse program to give them the same opportunity as other youth to participate in our economy. Support services include reimbursement of driver’s license issuance costs, fees for driver training, and motor vehicle liability insurance costs.
- You may recall that last year we secured funding for the Electric Aircraft Working Group to look at upholding Washington as an aviation leader and innovator in the electric and hybrid-electric aircraft industry, to link communities, help mitigate impacts on climate change, and rejuvenate rural economies. This budget will continue funding the workgroup, study the state of the electrically powered aircraft industry and evaluate infrastructure needs for regional air travel in Washington state.
Prime-Sponsored Bills that Passed this Session
Washington Health Corps
There is a looming shortage of behavioral health providers in our state, especially in underserved areas. I introduced a bill to encourage health care professionals to participate in supporting integrated behavioral health in underserved areas, experience firsthand knowledge, and grow the workforce. Once it is signed by Governor Inslee, my legislation will establish the Washington Health Corps and add in the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program. The result will be more healthcare professionals in the pipeline who will practice where the need is highest.
Life Sciences Discovery Fund
In 2005, the Life Science Discovery Fund was created with the state’s $1 billion share of tobacco-settlement money.
Its goal was to support university research and to grow Washington’s life sciences sector. Through its 12 years in operation, the fund was critical for the biotech and research fields. Some businesses that received funding were obligated to return a portion of their profits if they commercialized products. However, without the Fund, those dollars had nowhere to go.
This year we introduced identical bills in both chambers (HB 1335 / SB 5490) to ensure that the Fund’s intent is carried out, even though it is no longer active. The Senate bill was signed by the governor a couple of weeks ago. Now with the fund transferred to the Dept of Commerce, these dollars can continue to support life sciences research.
Nonprofit Homeownership Development
All property in our state is subject to annual taxes but there are a few temporary exceptions, one of them is for property owned by nonprofits to develop low-income housing.
In our efforts to address Washington’s affordable housing crisis, I introduced a bill expanding this tax exemption to include cooperative associations with developments where low-income households own at least 60 percent of the units. This measure will help prevent home displacement and support shared goals around affordable housing, including small businesses. This new law will provide another option for affordable homeownership in Washington.
Seattle Storm Special License Plates
The Seattle Storm are World Champions, extraordinary athletes, inspiring role models, and a powerful example for all youth, especially girls.
This bill will provide support to civic youth leadership programs and opportunities for girls with limited access to sports, and for girls with disabilities. The measure also fills a gap by recognizing professional basketball and professional women in sport by providing fans with a means of showing support while giving back to their community.