Dear Friends and Neighbors,
March 10 marked the final day of the 2016 regular session, but because an agreement could not be reached between the House and Senate on the supplemental operating budget, we are now in a 30-day special session. As a consequence of going into special session, Gov. Inslee decided to veto 27 of 37 bills that had come to his desk to be signed into law. Among the 27 bills were measures that would have decreased the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs, removed obstacles for college students with disabilities, and increased the availability of affordable housing.
I came to the Legislature looking to help people. I introduced two bills this session that sought to do that in a major way. To see the governor use a blanket veto out of frustration at legislators is extremely disappointing.
Regarding the supplemental operating budget, I was unable to support the proposal offered by the House. It relies on revenue we don't currently have, and seeks to raise that revenue through nearly $120 million in new taxes. It also unnecessarily raids the state's Budget Stabilization Account (also known as the rainy day fund), which is supposed to only be tapped for emergencies.
I was happy to support the 2016 supplemental transportation budget. It addresses concerns about state trooper pay, providing another 5 percent increase to our troopers in the Washington State Patrol (WSP). The WSP is currently dealing with a major recruitment and retention problem, with the number of state troopers falling from 690 to 580. Uncompetitive pay is a big reason for this, but retirements and discouragement over management practices are factors as well. Salaries offered by the WSP are uncompetitive in comparison to what many police departments across the state offer. While I don't know if a 15 percent increase over the next two years is enough to stop the retention crisis, I believe it's a good start. That's why I supported House Bill 2872, which is now on the governor's desk.
The transportation budget also addresses the I-405 tolls mess by eliminating tolls during evening non-peak hours, weekends and holidays, and reducing the cost of traveling in the express toll lanes.
Additionally, I am pleased there are $180 million in projects for the 30th District that remain in the transportation budget. This includes $85 million for improvements to the Federal Way Triangle Project. These improvements will be vital for Federal Way, and will ensure increased mobility and decreased congestion. They will also help freight goods get to market quicker, which will be good for our local and regional economies.
The latest on my SNAP bill
My bill to modify the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is vital to thousands of low-income individuals in our communities, was approved unanimously by the House and Senate.
House Bill 2877 would expand the date range for SNAP benefits to be distributed from 10 days to 20 days so recipients could have access to a wider range of food products and no longer have to navigate busy stores and long lines. The current model of distribution has not been working for grocery stores or SNAP recipients, so I am excited about the change my bill will bring if it becomes law.
The bill awaits the governor's signature.
In my latest video update, I discuss my SNAP bill, the supplemental transportation budget, and what I plan to work on this interim to prepare for next session. Take a look!
The 2016 Daffodil Festival Royal Court comes to Olympia
Every year, the 24 young women selected to be on the Daffodil Festival Royal Court come to Olympia to tour the Capitol and introduce themselves to legislators. I was a Daffodil Princess my senior year of high school, so I know how special this opportunity is for each of them. These young women are role models for their communities, and have extremely bright futures ahead of them.
When I spoke with the princesses, I encouraged them to pursue their dreams with everything they had. There are so many opportunities for young women today, and nothing should hold them back.
Reminder: town halls this week!
Sen. Mark Miloscia, Rep. Linda Kochmar and I will be hosting town halls this week to provide an overview of the 2016 session and take questions from participants.
Here is the schedule for this week:
March 15, 6-7 p.m.
Milton City Hall
1000 Laurel St., 98354
March 15, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Algona City Hall
402 Warde St., 98001
March 17, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave. S., 98003
I look forward to seeing you at one of these town halls!
I encourage you to continue contacting me with your thoughts about how we can work together to address the challenges facing our district and state. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (360) 786-7830 in Olympia and (253) 517-8063 at my district office in Federal Way.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.
30th Legislative District
122D Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7830 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000