Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is day 74 of the 105-day legislative session, and I continue to remain optimistic that we will be able to complete our work on time. The House Democrats will release their two-year operating budget proposal tomorrow, which will set the tone for the rest of session. The operating budget provides for the daily operating expenses of the state, including K-12 and higher education, health and human services and public safety. We are hearing their proposal will exceed existing revenues, which would mean new and higher taxes. With $3 billion more in revenue for the 2015-17 budget cycle – an 8 percent increase from the current budget cycle – our goal should be to spend within our means and produce a sustainable, long-term budget.
An update on legislation
House Bill 1316, which would help protect vulnerable adults who may have functional mental or physical disabilities, was unanimously passed out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee last week. It was then passed to the Senate Rules Committee, which has since sent the bill to the full Senate to be voted on.
House Bill 1554, which would exempt personal information of guardians or family members of children enrolled in child care programs, was unanimously passed out of the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee. It too was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where it currently awaits further consideration.
Another bill I'm excited about is Senate Bill 5954, which was introduced by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia. The bill would cap tuition costs at the state's public universities and colleges at a percentage of the average wage of the state. Simply, this would mean more than $200 million in tuition cuts for college students without increasing taxes.
In the 2004 fiscal year, Washington state was paying for 65 percent of college students' tuition at four-year institutions, while students were paying 35 percent. Today, the state pays 38 percent of their tuition, while students foot 62 percent of the bill (see chart). This has led to more and more students facing exorbitant debt upon graduation because of their reliance on student loans. The Legislature froze tuition at the state's public colleges in 2013 and 2014, and while that's to be applauded, it is important that we begin reducing tuition for our students.
The bill is now in the House Higher Education Committee, of which I'm a member. It is scheduled for an executive session next Wednesday, April 1, where the committee will decide whether or not to move the bill forward in the process.
Observing Women's History month at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
I was invited by the 7th Infantry Division to speak at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Wednesday in honor of Women's History month. It was a great privilege to speak before an auditorium full of men and women who actively serve in the U.S. Army.
I am so thankful for the dedication of our armed forces and the veterans who have fought to protect our freedom, affording me the opportunity to serve in the Legislature.
In my talk, I shared about the history of women in the Legislature, the strength of the women in my family, and my personal journey as the second-youngest woman to serve in the state House of Representatives.
Video update and Evening Magazine segment
In my latest video update, I discuss several pieces of legislation and offer a recap of the telephone town hall I recently held with Rep. Zeiger. I also discuss meeting with the young people of the TRIO program and honoring the University of Washington men's rowing team, which won its fourth consecutive national championship last year. Take a look!
I also recently had the opportunity to film a segment for Evening Magazine, which was a lot of fun. The two-minute piece highlights my background and some of my experiences so far here in the Legislature. Some of you may have seen the story air on Monday, but if you didn't get a chance to see it and would like to, click this link.
Town hall recap
Along with the telephone town hall we hosted together, Rep. Zeiger and I also recently held two in-person town hall meetings. The first was at the Puyallup Public Library, and the second was at Volcano Coffee in South Hill. I enjoyed being back in district and having productive conversations with friends and neighbors about how the Legislature can best address the problems facing our district and state. I look forward to hosting more town halls in the future.
If you're planning on visiting Olympia during these last 31 days of the legislative session, I would love to have the opportunity to sit down and meet with you. To set up a time, please call my office at (360) 786-7948. If you can't make it to Olympia, please don't hesitate to send me an email or give me a call with your comments, questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you!
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.