Representative Reuven Carlyle has emailed us a new blog post covering the flurry of activity in Olympia, especially surrounding the state budget. As is customary now, Carlyle is asking for your feedback on a wide range of issues — and he reads the comments. His post follows below:
In the waning days of the 2009 session in Olympia, legislators are debating, advocating, prodding, pushing and voting on major issues ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to education reform, domestic partnerships and job initiatives in cooperation with the Obama Administration.
Serving as a member of the state House has been a tremendous experience on a personal and professional level. The best part has been making a difference on profoundly important public policy issues that impact real people living real lives. The worse part has obviously been spending so much time away from my wife Wendy and our four children. I’m chomping at the bit to come home!
On the budget front: House and Senate budget negotiators are holed up in conference rooms in the Capitol forging a deal on how to address a $9 billion projected deficit in the $33 billion biennial operating budget. The central theme of the session has been jobs, jobs, jobs.
Budget categories include basic education (K-12), higher education, social services, government reform challenges and much more. There also are two stop-gap tax proposals being discussed to mitigate the worst effects of the unprecedented slashing of $9B from state programs: 1) a temporary 0.3 percent increase in the sales tax and 2) a 1% income tax for those earning more than $250,000 per year. Either would require voter approval, so don’t worry that you wouldn’t have a direct voice! (Let me know in the comment section whether you think I should vote to send a tax measure to the ballot and, if so, which one).
I’m proud that the Legislature passed a strong education reform bill (HB 2261) with the support of thousands of parents, teachers and supporters. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and I all voted for the education reform bill. We had hundreds of visitors to Olympia from Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia and throughout the 36th District. The reform bill, which unfortunately has not gained the support of the Washington Education Association, offers a new definition of ‘basic education’ for the first time in a generation. I do believe we must increase funding for schools given our rank of 42nd in the nation in funding public education, but it is essential that we thoughtfully improve the quality, performance and accountability of the institutional bureaucracy of education at the same time. Here’s video of the first speech I delivered on the House floor on this legislation earlier in the session.
Legislation to expand domestic partnership rights passed overwhelmingly. It would allow, for example, the same-sex partner of a police officer killed in the line of duty to receive access to the same public-employee benefits that a heterosexual partner would receive. It’s a basic civil right that I am proud to support.
I did vote on principle against the 520 tolling bill despite my strong support for comprehensive regional tolling. There is not yet agreement on the bridge design between the east and west sides of 520, and given what I’ve learned from 8 years of viaduct dialogue, if you don’t have a strategy in place you shouldn’t start spending money. In terms of the tunnel project itself, I am pleased that we secured the $2.4 billion (plus $400M in tolling authority).
We all know the struggling economy led by unemployment and underemployment, taxes, business climate issues, workforce development and more requires new strategies for the 21st Century global economy. We are facing structural challenges in our economy at the local, state and national levels. One of my regrets from the session is that I didn’t spend time earlier preparing legislation to help small businesses (from paperwork reduction to city, county and state tax streamlining), which form the core of our long term economic growth.
I also admit I’ve been frustrated at the lack of progress in tackling genuine structural reforms in government programs during this economic crisis. I don’t mean this from an anti-government perspective but simply that it takes genuine courage to address the sacred cows in any institution, and government is no different. But given the march of rising costs in health care, for example, we have absolutely no choice.
It’s been a real jolt to see up close and personal the operational difference between the public and private sectors.
While much of the major environmental legislation was regretfully watered down this year, we have adopted some compelling clean energy bills that will help leverage the federal government’s new investment in clean technology. I joined with the environmental community and worked extremely hard to protect I-937, the citizen’s initiative on renewable energy that was adopted by voters (more than 70% in our district, by the way).
In the final days, we have major votes on the Viaduct, job and workforce development, budgets, state revenue packages, unemployment insurance, child care workers, local taxing options for Metro and King County, jobs and school construction and much more.
How are we doing?
Your partner in service, Reuven.