The Washington State Legislature adjourned in April, following the adoption of a balanced state budget and a major, bipartisan, jobs package. Legislators have returned to their districts, and I have the honor of continuing to serve our community by providing constituent services, tracking the implementation of newly adopted laws, developing bill ideas for 2013, and listening and learning about pending issues.
In this brief newsletter, I’d like to touch on the $31 billion dollar budget that the governor just signed, as well as the jobs package, and some of the activities I’ve been involved with locally.
The 2012 Budget
It took some tough negotiations to get to a final version, but in the end, the state budget the governor signed into law left a reserve of $311 million.
From the time the last budget was approved in 2011 to the start of a special legislative session in November, revenue forecasts dropped by $1.7 billion. The solution to that challenge included the nearly half-billion-dollar early action package passed in December, improved revenue outlooks for the state, reductions to some state services, accounting changes, and targeted revenue, such as eliminating a tax break for large out-of-state banks.
Significantly, this was the first budget in four years to make no cuts to K-12 or higher education. This year, we also took an important step forward in improving our teacher and principal evaluation system. Ensuring every child in Washington has access to a good education is the best investment we can make and the state’s highest duty. In fact, the Legislature has been ordered by our own State Supreme Court to step up our funding of an adequate basic education.
I’ve been appointed as one of eight members of a newly formed Joint Select Committee established to serve as a bridge between the court justices and the Legislature, where I will continue to advocate for our state’s commitment to an excellent public education. You can find more information on the new budget here.
Jobs Package Signed into Law
The state construction budget passed this year is targeted at job creation, both for the short term and in the coming years. In addition to creating an estimated 18,000 construction jobs statewide, the bipartisan capital budget targets investments that will drive private-sector economic growth. For example, the largest part of the package focuses on workforce training, investing $320 million in higher education projects, including work at Olympic College in Bremerton, that will help more people qualify for high-demand careers.
The $1 billion bipartisan jobs package also focused on export-related projects, industrial site cleanup, economic development infrastructure such as water systems, and investments in Main Street downtown revitalization efforts. Kitsap County projects that will get a boost include Port Gamble Bay clean-up efforts, the Kitsap PUD’s water supply infrastructure project, Bainbridge Island’s waste water treatment plant, and stormwater improvements in Illahee.
Around the District
During the interim, my work in the district varies from day to day. For example last week I visited the office of Disabled American Veterans in Seattle, to learn more about their statewide services and discuss past and future legislative proposals. I also had lunch with dozens of folks at the Salvation Army in Bremerton, and joined a forum afterward devoted to better coordinating homeless and poverty initiatives in Kitsap County.
Earlier in the month, I participated in a panel at a regional conference of the commercial fishing industry to create a unified voice for the maritime industry – a key step needed to strengthen this sector and make sure that our high schools and technical and community colleges are providing the skills training and coursework needed for workers to maintain our region as a ship and boat building center. Additionally I joined regional business and community leaders in a roundtable discussion with Senator Maria Cantwell at the Bremerton National Airport to recruit new aerospace businesses to this side of Puget Sound. These efforts are being coordinated by a new coalition called the Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance.
Please join me next week at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce for a recap of the 2012 Legislative session, with questions and answers to follow. The chamber requires a reservation.
Due to state campaign laws during election years, this will be my last e-newsletter until after November. Thank you for subscribing. And please contact my office if we can be of service, or if you wish to share ideas or concerns.