Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is an honor to serve as your 26th District state representative. With the 2017 legislative session scheduled to begin Jan. 9, I wanted to provide you with a preview of the 105-day session, as well as some insights into what I've been working on this interim.
In odd-numbered years, the Legislature is responsible for developing a two-year operating budget, as well as capital and transportation budgets. The operating budget funds most of the daily expenses of state government, the capital budget funds various physical infrastructure needs of the state, and the transportation budget funds the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges and ferries, as well as the maintenance needs of such infrastructure.
Our top priority as a Legislature during the 2017 session will be addressing K-12 education funding as it pertains to the 2012 McCleary case. Over the last four years, we have made historic investments in K-12 education, increasing funding by $4.8 billion from the 2013-15 biennium to the 2015-17 biennium – a 36 percent increase. In addition, we have made investments to ensure teacher raises, smaller K-3 class sizes and full-day kindergarten. More than 48 percent of the operating budget is now dedicated to K-12 education, but we know there is still more work to do. We must now take the final step during the 2017 session and pass a series of important education funding reforms.
An important priority of our caucus will be developing innovative ways to improve our state's business climate and increase the number of available high-paying jobs. While we do not yet know the full impact of Initiative 1433, which will give Washington state the highest minimum wage in the nation ($11.00) as of Jan. 1 (increasing to $13.50 by 2020), we do know such an increase has the potential to hurt our small businesses – especially businesses in rural communities where job growth has lagged. While some of the state's larger employers may be able to easily adapt to the changes Initiative 1433 will bring, many of our small businesses will struggle to do the same. That's why we must develop and support policies that allow our small businesses to thrive, free from unnecessary and burdensome regulations.
In addition to these priorities, we also must continue developing ways to care for our most vulnerable, reform our mental health system, and make Washington the best place to live, work and start a family.
This session, I will be crafting legislation on education reform, health care, fair insurance practices and more. I am actively working with legislative staff on these bills and will share more details in future updates. In the meantime, please feel free to contact my office with your thoughts, questions or concerns about the upcoming session – or come visit me in Olympia! My door is always open.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.