Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am honored to once again serve as the ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee. This is the committee that decides revenue and funding issues. We will be very involved with the budget discussions this year. Already I am meeting with budget staff weekly from the House, Senate, and governor's office.
This year, I am also serving on the House Technology and Economic Development Committee. This committee looks at energy policy and economic development. I look forward to helping shape the state's future energy policy. This committee with face the challenges of the governor's proposed climate initiative, addressing the unintended consequences of Initiative 937 (The Energy Independence Act), and many other technological issues. For example, legal use of drones, setting new appliance efficiency standards, and the protection of consumers' financial information.
The Legislature faces many challenges this session. These include:
- EDUCATION FUNDING: We must meet the state's paramount duty to fund education in a manner that adheres to the state constitution and satisfies the requirements of the Washington State Supreme Court under the McCleary decision. The estimated new cost to satisfy this requirement to fully fund K-12 this biennium ranges from $1 billion to $4 billion.
- CLASS-SIZE REDUCTION INITIATIVE: Voters narrowly approved Initiative 1351 to reduce class sizes in public schools. However, the initiative provided no means to pay for the costs, which are estimated to be an additional $4 billion to $7 billion. In addition to these costs, there is the challenge to fund new classrooms and find qualified teachers to fill the new positions. Legislators will either likely have to suspend the initiative (requires a two-thirds vote), deeply cut services or raise taxes to pay for the directive.
- JOBS AND THE ECONOMY: Although the economy across the state has mostly stabilized, it has not completely recovered. I still have concerns for the middle class who continue to struggle. They see the brunt of the increased taxes and regulatory burdens.
- TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: There will likely be a transportation package to address infrastructure needs this biennium. The larger question is how will it be funded? Can we get the necessary reforms? The next phase of the Highway 12 expansion, the Red Mountain Interchange, the Lewis Street Overpass in Pasco, and the bridge repair in Waitsburg are all important projects that could be funded through a new transportation package. Also important to our district is the extension of Highway 167, which will help ensure our products are able to move quickly and efficiently through our ports.
ANOTHER WAY FOR HYDRO TO BE 'RENEWABLE'
In 2006, voters approved Initiative 937, which requires large utilities to incrementally ramp up the percentage of “eligible renewable resources” in their energy portfolio to 15 percent by 2020. Unlike wind and solar, hydro is not recognized in the initiative as an eligible renewable resource.
Utilities are treated differently in terms of I-937. Some qualify for technical efficiencies to count as renewable and some do not.
I have introduced House Bill 1352. The measure would allow incremental improvements in electricity efficiencies in hydro projects owned by Bonneville Power Administration that now qualify as an eligible renewable resource. All electricity consumers paying for hydro efficiencies should receive the same cost saving benefit from the utility's ability to qualify for technical improvements towards the act. The bill had its first hearing today in the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.
Want more information about what's happening at the Capitol?
Watch my Legislative Update video here.
JOIN US WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28 FOR A TELEPHONE TOWN HALL MEETING
Your input is very important as we vote on issues critical to the district. That's why Rep. Maureen Walsh and I are holding an hour-long telephone town hall meeting tomorrow night (Wednesday, Jan. 28) starting at 6 p.m. To join the community conversation, call us at (509) 885-9012. To ask a question, press the “star” ( * ) key on your telephone keypad.
I invite you to contact my legislative aide Meagan Allen or myself throughout the session with your questions, comments, or suggestions about legislation and state government issues. Our contact information is below.
It is an honor to serve and represent you!