Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings, from snowy, wet, slushy and icy Olympia!
The fast pace expected for the short, 60-day legislative session never really got started but has managed to become slower due to the weather this week. Several committee meeting were cancelled as many legislators, staff, and citizens have been unable to get to the Capitol Campus in Olympia. We've had several large branches from trees around the campus come crashing down, loaded with snow and ice. Seems like every e-mail back and forth from colleagues and coworkers includes the tagline “stay safe out there.”
Even in the midst of “Winter Storm, 2012” and with a $1.5 billion budget shortfall hanging over our heads, it still amazes me how many bills are being introduced in the Legislature – especially ones that start or expand programs. In my mind, we should be working on two things and two things only: solving our state's budget shortfall and implementing policies to help get Washington working again. However, I'm not running the show in Olympia and so the deluge of legislative proposals continues.
Finally, some good news from Olympia
There was some good news to come from Olympia last month. The Employment Security Department released data showing that our state's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate went from 9.1 percent in October to 8.7 percent in November. This means more than 12,000 jobs were added, which represents the largest one-month employment gain over the last four years. Preliminary estimates also show that nearly every industry sector posted job gains in November. You can read more here. Let's hope this economic momentum continues in 2012, as consumers gain more confidence and employers continue to rehire laid off workers.
More on the governor's transportation proposal
The governor has brought transportation into the mix of her priorities this session by proposing a transportation revenue package during her State of the State address last week. The proposal includes a variety of fee (tax) increases. A bill has yet to be introduced, but here is a list of the revenue sources she is targeting for her plan:
· $1.50 per barrel fee on any oil produced in Washington;
· $100 fee on electric vehicles;
· $5 per studded tire fee;
· 15 percent increase in combined licensing fees;
· $15 passenger vehicle weight fee increase; and
· Local option fee increases to $40 for Transportation Benefit Districts or a one percent motor vehicle excise option.
It doesn't end with just fee proposals. A member of the majority party in the House has proposed House Bill 2370, which requires an efficient statewide transportation system to include the health of the state's citizens as part of the goals in developing transportation projects. I'm not really sure how you can relate and quantify a person's health with transportation projects, but someone somewhere thinks they can.
Where I stand on the issues
Many of you thank me for my stances on issues I report in my e-newsletter, while some criticize me for what – and how – I report what is happening. Let me reassure everyone that my goal is to work with any member of the legislature to advance policies that lead to greater job creation and that improve how our government operates – enabling us to balance the budget within existing revenues and create a long-term sustainable budget.
Often, what is deemed to be a partisan attack is really an attempt to let you know what is proposed and by whom. It is not intended to be partisan or to attack the person proposing it – it is to discern what is being proposed and to determine whether it will benefit the citizens of the state or harm them. If it harms the citizens or threatens to harm our economy – I will be critical of the proposal. But, be assured, there are other issues that I may be working on with that same individual so it is in fact intended to be about the policy and not the person proposing it. I hope that addresses the concerns some have and erases any doubts that might enter anyone's mind about my intentions.
Again, thank you for the honor of serving you in Olympia. I'll continue to update you from time to time on the budget and other issues of importance. Please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.