By MACKENZIE CIESA, UW NEWS LAB
Sen. Jeanne Kohl Welles and Reps. Reuven Carlyle and Gael Tarleton co-hosted a town hall meeting on Saturday morning to discuss the changes that took place during the past legislative session and the impact they will have on communities in the 36th Legislative District.
The meeting was held at the Phinney Neighborhood Center. Each legislator spoke about their successes and failures during the past session, and then the floor was opened up for questions. Many asked about the new budget, education, transportation, housing and taxes.
Kohl-Welles noted that the past legislative session lasted for almost six months, and although it was challenging at times, she believes there were some good policies put into place.
Tarleton discussed the importance of putting the people in the community first and protecting them, and she believes that many of the initiatives the legislators have been working on will do just that. This includes developing a plan for affordable housing and health care, which Tarleton said would ensure that 93 percent of Washingtonians would have access to health care once finished.
Higher education was another hot topic. The legislators talked about the tuition freeze, and the 12 percent increase in the budget for higher education, due to the passing of the telecommunications bill. Tarleton believes that this will increase access to higher education for everyone in Washington state.
Many were concerned with the seemingly unsettled transportation issues, such as the budget and the changing of various bus routes in King County, and the legislators noted that this was one of their biggest failures during the past session. However, Tarleton said that the legislators are currently working on a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee to call for a special session this October or November to continue to address the transportation package.
One of the attendees asked the legislators how they plan on ensuring that the next biennium budget includes sustainable revenues, which led into the subject of taxation. Carlyle said that the legislators are working hard to address tax concerns, especially around larger organizations paying their fair share. However, he doesn’t believe that a tax increase is the way to go.
“The goal is to tax wisely in economically, efficient ways that in effect depoliticize taxes and makes it less a tool of politics and more about our quality of life with a broader basis, just more intentionally connected to the economy of tomorrow,” Carlyle said.
MACKENZIE CIESA is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.