Friends and Neighbors,
We are two weeks into the 2011 session and things are moving fast and frantic. I have been chosen by my colleagues to serve on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Community Development and Housing Committee.
Also, this year, the majority party in the House of Representatives folded the Finance Committee into another committee so I will continue to be in a position to help protect you against tax increases in my role as Assistant Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committee.
The main issue again this year is the nearly-$5 billion budget shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium. However, we also have a budget shortfall of about $500 million for the remainder of this fiscal year, ending June 30.
This week, we saw the first draft of the House Democrats' plans to close this $500 million gap. While I commend them for making some very difficult choices, the truth is, their proposal is not really a supplemental budget. It doesn't completely fill the budget hole, which will require another “supplemental budget” to be drafted toward the end of session. A more thorough proposal would be far more responsible.
I also have serious concerns about a portion of their budget that retroactively takes money away from school districts for K-4 teacher enhancements. This is money that has already been budgeted, and in many cases, has already been used to hire teachers! How are school districts supposed to budget in the future if the Legislature pulls this kind of gimmick? If you'd like to see the rest of my comments about this proposal, click here and scroll forward to the 47:55 mark.
Congratulations Congresswomen Jaime Herrera-Beutler and welcome Rep. Ann Rivers
I want to congratulate my former seatmate, Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who is now representing Southwest Washington in Congress, in place of former Congressman Brian Baird.
Jaime did a fantastic job representing the 18th Legislative District and I know she's up to the task of representing us here in the 3rd Congressional District.
But, I am also excited to work with her successor, Rep. Ann Rivers. Ann has already proven herself a capable speaker and a visionary after giving the Republican response to Governor Gregoire's “state of the state” speech on the second day of session.
Legislators from the 18th District have a long history of working together as a team to help our constituents and to advance common-sense solutions for Southwest Washington and Rep. Rivers will continue that tradition. I very much look forward to working with Rep. Rivers as well as Sen. Joe Zarelli in the months ahead as we work our way through the 2011 Legislative Session.
Getting families working again
It was great to see so many of you during this past year at town hall meetings and in the community. I know that many of you are struggling to find work and are going through tough times. I want you to know that the sluggish economy has impacted my job outside the Legislature as well. Lack of work forced me to leave my previous employer and start a business of my own. If you're like me, you probably never thought you'd be in this situation. And, I know that many adults are unemployed for the first time in their lives.
To me, this session must be about getting people back to work.
The budget, and getting government spending under control, will take a huge amount of our time and efforts. But we must not forget the people that have been impacted these last few years by the recession. We need to keep them at the forefront of our decisions in Olympia and implement policies that remove barriers for entrepreneurs. We need to give employers a chance to lead us out of our economic malaise and enable you to go back to work.
I hope you'll contact me with your thoughts and ideas throughout the session on how we can balance our budget and help get people back to work.