Dear friends and neighbors,
It has been great to connect with many of you at local and community events this summer! I am excited to share an update on a few these activities and some further policy items.
As you know, our state’s economy relies on a skilled workforce, that’s why passage of the Workforce Education Investment Act was such a priority this session. Career connected learning is a significant piece of this legislation and it’s important for people to truly grasp what that’s about. If you are interested to learn more, please take a look at an opinion piece I co-authored with Sen. Lisa Wellman, that ran in the Seattle Times last week, on how this bill will help steer our students to the many paths for productive lives.
I am glad to be part of several task forces also in regards to the future of work. Last month I attended the Council of State Governments’ first Future of Work National Task Force meeting in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Task Force is divided into four subcommittees: The Workforce of Tomorrow; Smart Government; What’s Next? Embracing the Future; and Equity and Inclusion. As one of the ten members of the Workforce of Tomorrow Subcommittee, I look forward to working with my colleagues over the next two years surveying best practices and innovative state initiatives on what we are doing, as policymakers, to prepare our children for the future.
On June 17, I was thrilled to have had the chance to read to kids for the Young Author Day event at Benjamin Rush Elementary, which my son attended almost 15 years ago, so it was an extra special experience.
Meeting with stakeholders and constituents is a huge part of my job as your representative, and that includes participating on panel discussions about policy and legislation around the district, as well as attending the great 4th of July Kirkland parade and the Derby Days parade in Redmond.
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback and want to remind you that I am your legislator year ‘round, so don’t hesitate to contact my office for a quick chat or to set up a meeting.
Have a great summer!
Work in Progress
In my previous newsletter I mentioned that several worthy bills did not make it through this session either because we ran out of time or due to lack of support. Below are a few examples of measures that we are fine-tuning during the interim so we can bring them back next year and hopefully get them to the governor’s desk:
- Washington Student Loan Program: HB 1542 – The growing student debt crisis is only getting worse. This bill would establish the Washington Student Loan Program to award loans to resident students with a 1 percent interest rate. These student loans would cover certificate programs, associate’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees.
- Clean fuel standard: HB 1110 – Nearly 50 percent of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the transportation sector. This policy addresses the source of that pollution by directing the Washington State Department of Ecology to adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program. It would improve local air quality and provide economic benefits to our state’s communities by increasing demand for locally produced biofuels. California, Oregon and British Columbia already have such programs in place.
- Reducing pollution from single-use plastics: HB 1205/HB 1632/SB 5077 – I’ve heard from several of you urging me to continue working on this issue. Like you, I am committed to ensuring Washington becomes part of the solution for plastic pollution, rather than part of the problem. Because the reality is that plastic is one of the most common items found in cleanups along our coast. Single-use plastic bags create enormous amounts of plastic waste in our landfills and oceans, which threatens marine life, but also generates complications in the recycling stream and to commercial composters.
Modernizing and Rebalancing the State Tax Structure
This past session the legislature raised state revenue to ensure funding for our priorities focusing on education, health care and transportation. Thank you to those who have reached out with your ideas on improving affordability while still addressing the growing needs of our economically diverse state.
The costs associated with the business of government require smart investments over time, putting people first, and fair yet sustainable revenue options. This includes continuing to build resilience and responding to rising demands in basic education, as well as ongoing needs such as mental healthcare, the opioid crisis and fixing culverts to improve fish passage.
Acknowledging that Washington state’s tax base has eroded as we continue to shift from a goods-based to a service-based economy, a Tax Structure Work Group was created in the 2017-19 Operating Budget. Public meetings were held across the state to discuss the current tax structure and ideas on how to improve it, and we listened when communities requested we continue this effort.
This year’s budget includes funding to reauthorize and expand the Tax Structure Work Group. To ensure a wide range of views, we are requiring a technical advisory committee that includes economists, business owners and experts in the changing economy with a focus on technology. I am glad we can continue this work to formulate policy proposals that will fix our tax code so that it is equitable, adequate, stable, and transparent.
Tax Relief for Seniors and Veterans
The current senior and veteran property tax exemption applies uniformly across the state. In some counties, the $40,000 threshold is adequate, but in others, it is far too low.
In a time of rising property values and high property taxes, seniors and veterans are struggling. So we passed a bill that adjusts the way income qualification thresholds are calculated by using a percentage of the county median household income as the metric. For King County, thresholds now range from $40,000 to $57,900 for full to partial exemptions. These changes will result in significant property tax relief for seniors and veterans who are struggling to stay in their homes.
Thank you to those who reached out with your stories and suggestions, and advocated for this important legislation.
Adequate school lunch duration
I was pleased to be one of the sponsors of a bill aimed at helping schools overcome barriers that prevent students from having enough time during the lunch period to actually eat lunch. Between having to walk long distances across campus and standing in cafeteria lines, many students often end up with very little time to eat. This matters because hungry kids struggle to learn, and because the students who are most affected by this issue are those on free or reduced lunches, who can’t skip the cafeteria lines since they can’t bring lunch from home.
The House passed the measure on a 95-1 vote, but it stalled in the Senate. Fortunately, the intentions of House Bill 1272 were included in our budget, allocating a total of $126,000 over two years for OSPI to evaluate and implement best practices, provide grants and help school districts with procedures for ensuring that students have at least 20 minutes of seated time during lunch periods.
What about lunch during the summer break?
Many kids throughout Washington rely on school lunches and school breakfasts to keep them fed. But during summer break, those kids don’t have the same regular access to food and many are going hungry. Summer meals programs help fill this gap by providing breakfast, lunch and snacks at local parks, elementary schools and other community gathering places. To find out where the closest meal program is, you can enter your location information into this website or text “FOOD” to 877-877.