Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In just four short days, I will be down in Olympia as the 2015 legislative session convenes. Since the Legislature adjourned in March 2014, I've been meeting with folks in district to receive their feedback on the challenges our communities face and their suggestions for how state government can better serve them.
It's no secret the Legislature will have to do some heavy lifting in 2015 to address a number of shortfalls. It's also the start of a new budget cycle, so some tough decisions must be made in terms of how we prioritize spending. No budget decision is ever easy but I'm optimistic for some healthy, productive debates!
In December, Gov. Jay Inslee issued his 2015-17 budget proposals. Altogether, his $39 billion, two-year operating budget would increase state spending by 15 percent and require $1.42 billion in net tax increases. He also proposed a $3.9 billion capital budget and a $7.76 billion transportation budget.
Frankly, these figures concern me, especially since the governor's revenue assumptions rely on a volatile capital gains tax and an unpredictable cap-and-trade scheme. These proposals will certainly be a topic of discussion as I serve on the House Appropriations Committee this session, which considers the operating budget and related legislation.
As discussions continue about these budget proposals and others, it's important to remember the state is expecting $3 billion more in new revenues, or an 8-percent increase, for 2015-17 than we have for 2013-15. This is good news for Washington state as we attempt to reduce our dependency on new taxes.
2015 legislative session
In addition to serving on the House Appropriations Committee, I'll also be resuming my post as ranking Republican on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. I'm honored House leadership placed their confidence in me to lead the caucus on the many important issues covered by the committee. I grew up on a dairy farm right outside of Lynden and call Lynden home to this day. And many of those who elected me to represent the 42nd District are farmers, miners, and ranchers. I feel well-equipped to serve in a lead position on the committee and am looking forward to tackling some of the issues our communities face when it comes to agriculture policy this session.
The agriculture committee isn't just about farms and ranches. It also handles issues related to water quality and resources, fisheries and wildlife, forest fire protection, and management of certain state-owned lands.
While I try to make it up to district as much as possible during session, sometimes my legislative duties prevent me from making the drive. I want you to know there are a number of ways you can contact me and stay connected to your state government. You can find a lot of information on the state Legislature's official website: leg.wa.gov.
- Comment on a bill online by entering the bill number, then clicking “comment on this bill.”
- Track bills online.
- Sign up for e-mail updates to receive various committee agendas and other information.
- Call the toll-free, legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 (TTD: 1-800-635-9993).
Of course, if you have questions or suggestions about the Legislature, or need help navigating state government, you can always contact me directly at my Olympia office.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you, and it's an honor to serve.