Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's Day 24 of the scheduled 105-day legislative session in Olympia and time to provide a brief progress report. I'm working on several issues important to the district, including the state budget, education, energy, and public safety. Please take a moment to read through the details below. I invite your comments.
I also want to thank all of you who have contacted my office through your letters, phone calls and e-mails. Several people have also made the long trip over to Olympia from the district to testify on legislation and meet with me and my seatmates, Rep. Maureen Walsh and Sen. Mike Hewitt. Thank you for your involvement. It makes a BIG difference!
It is an honor to serve you.
Creating a priorities-based budget
The Legislature's fiscal mismanagement of the taxpayers' money over the past few years has been a frustration of mine, and I know you share that frustration as well. That's one of the reasons I ran for the position of state representative. I felt we needed to have a strong voice for fiscal responsibility.
Overspending, combined with a weak economy, has placed our state budget in a serious mess. The current fiscal year, which closes out June 30, still has an estimated shortfall of more than $600 million. Once we close out that budget gap, we will have to write an operating budget for the next two years. That budget has a projected shortfall of more than $5.1 billion.
As our state headed into economic decline about three years ago, most families and businesses cut back their spending. They looked at their budgets and asked, “Is this a need or a want?” And then they adjusted their spending accordingly. It's time for state government to do the same.
As we move forward in making spending decisions for the next two years, my priority in the budget will be directed to three areas:
- Funding education;
- Preserving public safety; and
- Protecting our state's most vulnerable citizens.
After that, we must review other programs and ask, “Does the state really need to fund this?”
Making these decisions will not be easy, but it's also an opportunity to review the role of government. The days of irresponsible budgeting must end and it's time to close the gates on liberal spending and adjust the state's budget, just like you've had to do with your own budget at home.
Committee schedules make for a full day
Bills must be approved at the committee level before they go before the full House for consideration, so the first half of the session is dedicated primarily to committee work.
This year, I am serving on the following four House committees:
The Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee considers fiscal matters related to education. We're taking a close look at the classrooms to see what works, and I'm trying to create more flexibility in local school districts so they can use the dollars in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
The Judiciary Committee considers a wide variety of subjects relating to civil and criminal law. I have an extensive background as an attorney, so I'm using that experience to help guide legislation in this committee.
As a member of the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, I am working for a strong energy policy that ensures adequate baseload generation for the future, including nuclear power. (See more on this issue below.)
In the Environment Committee, we will be looking at ways to expand recycling efforts so that we can minimize harm to our environment – and I'll be working to keep costs down in the process.
Nuclear power is the best answer to the energy-supply question
In November, I co-authored a guest editorial along with Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, that appeared in several of our local newspapers. The article explained the importance of planning now to meet our future energy needs.
We have to make a decision – and soon – about how our state will meet future energy demands should it curtail the use of fossil fuel electrical generation (such as coal- and gas-fired plants). Some have suggested wind and solar as the replacements for these sources. Unfortunately, both wind and solar provide power intermittently and are not sufficient sources for constant baseload generation.
The answer is to expand nuclear energy, which exists as one of the most reliable and clean non-emitting electrical baseload generation sources.
Recently, I introduced legislation to bring the idea of nuclear energy into the conversation of planning for our future electrical needs. House Bill 1513 would create a nine-member joint legislative task force on nuclear energy to study the feasibility of pursuing additional nuclear generated power in Washington. The study would be submitted to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2011.
In addition, the legislation sets out goals of constructing at least one nuclear energy facility in our state in the next nine years, three by 2030, and five by 2040.
A hearing has been scheduled on the bill for next Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 1:30 p.m. in the House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, John L. O'Brien Building, Hearing Room B, in Olympia.
We're reaching a critical point in our state's energy needs. While hydro is an important part of our Washington's energy generation, I don't see us building dams any time soon. Nuclear is our best choice. Let's begin this conversation now and plan to meet our future energy needs.