Op-ed from Sen. Mike Hewitt, Rep. Maureen Walsh and Rep. Terry Nealey: Ready to work for you in the 2015 legislative session
The sharp crack of gavels pounding on the rostrums in the House and Senate chambers echoed throughout the state Capitol as lawmakers came together Jan. 12 to begin a scheduled 105-day session. We are now here in Olympia, ready to be your voice and to represent your interests and concerns, and those of your neighbors across the 16th District.
This year, we see at least four major issues that will dominate the 64th Legislature.
- Education funding – Although in the previous biennium, the Legislature appropriated an additional $1.6 billion for K-12 public schools, the state Supreme Court ruled last fall that lawmakers still have not done enough to satisfy requirements of the “McCleary Decision.” The court has given the Legislature until the 2017-18 school year to fix the problem, but under threat of sanctions, it wants lawmakers to show measurable progress during the 2015 session. We support funding education first in the state budget.
- Transportation funding – Will there be a transportation package to address infrastructure needs, and if so, how would it be funded? We and many other Republicans would consider it, if there are meaningful reforms to the state's transportation system first.
- Jobs and economy – Although the economy across the state has mostly stabilized, it has not completely recovered. We will be looking for opportunities to provide employers with stability and to stimulate job growth, and seeking meaningful ways to help working families.
- Budget, taxes and environment – While we support clean air and water, we are concerned the governor's cap and trade (carbon tax) proposal could hurt our fragile economy, further burden struggling families trying to make ends meet, and would have very little benefit to our state, which is among the cleanest in the nation. We are also concerned with the governor's insistence to raise taxes by $1.4 billion. Washington will have $3 billion more in revenue in the upcoming two-year budget cycle compared to the last one – a nearly 9 percent increase. How many families have seen that kind of increase in their budgets? We believe in prioritizing spending in the state budget, putting education first, and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Tax increases should be a last resort, not the first option when writing a two-year state operating budget.
While other issues will be debated this session, the most important component is YOU! We need to hear from you as we make decisions on your behalf. We invite you to contact our offices and let us know how you feel on these and other concerns affecting the 16th District.
Here's how to reach us:
You may also leave a message on the Legislature's toll-free hotline: 1-800-562-6000.
For the next 15 weeks, we will provide a weekly update in this newspaper to keep you informed. We've rolled up our sleeves and we're ready to work for you. We invite you to contact us any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation and state government.
Editor's note: Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla), Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-College Place), and Rep. Terry Nealey (R-Dayton), serve the 16th District.