STRENGTHENING OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
I have two grown children who attended public school in the Bellevue School District so I know we have excellent quality schools in the 48th Legislative District. I strongly believe that same opportunity should be afforded to all of our children so they graduate with skills that prepare them for higher education and the 21st-century world economy. But we can’t meet this goal without fully funding basic education and ensuring our educational policies maximize opportunities for our students. We also can’t meet this goal without excellent teachers – and right now Washington is experiencing a severe teacher shortage primarily due to low starting teacher salaries and poor working conditions – crowded class sizes, lack of para-educators in the classroom, and run-down school buildings.
We are not going to cut our way out of this, and it is foolish to reduce or eliminate funding for essential programs that ready our kids for school; that provide shelter for homeless students; for career/technical education training; or that help our most vulnerable – those on a fixed income, the disabled, working families, veterans, or programs that help the poor, homeless, and those suffering from mental illness.
This past session, I was proud to pass a bill that afforded deaf and hard-of-hearing students with the resources they need to be successful in our public schools. I will continue to champion education, students, and our local schools in the Senate.
I have been told the past 6 months in the legislature have been the most difficult to date. As a newly-appointed Senator, it was my first experience and I concur that it was indeed very difficult - and unnecessarily so. We are all in this together, folks, and we need to talk with one another, especially when it's difficult. Our job was to equitably fund K-12 education throughout WA. I voted 'no' on the budget for 2 main reasons: 1) we only temporarily "fixed" the problem and we'll be back for a re-do in a few years; and 2) a handful of districts, including the 48th, will shoulder the majority of this effort. In short, we are funding education with an inequitable funding method. Better, more fair and progressive options were on the table that combined with a modest property tax increase could have permanently solved the funding issue, but were rejected outright by the Senate Republicans. That's hardly compromise.
Here's a link to my reasons, expressed in the wee hours of the morning, June 30th, when the budget passed.
GETTING OUR REGION MOVING
We have to face facts. We failed to invest in our transportation infrastructure when we had the chance to do so on the federal government’s dime and before our population grew, outpacing road capacity. Businesses have been hurt by an inefficient system that leaves goods and service providers idling on the roadway. On top of that, we expect another 1 million people to relocate to Washington by 2040, most of whom are expected to live west of the Cascades. This population increase will only add to the stress on our roads. That’s the hand we have been dealt, and voters decided last fall not to kick the can down the road any further.
Currently, I-405 is the most congested roadway in our state. In my first session, I listened to hundreds of I-405 commuters (I’m one of those, too!) and signed on to bi-partisan legislation that would have, among other things, reduced the hot lanes from two to one. When it became clear that legislation was not gaining traction, I called for a meeting with WSDOT and invited all the other legislators up and down the 405 corridor to relay constituent concerns to find another way to improve the situation. Shortly after that meeting, WSDOT voluntarily lifted tolls on weekends and evenings and made other improvements such as better ingress/egress points to the hot lanes. The hard shoulder running near Highway 527 is now open and has gone a long way to alleviate congestion in that area. The tolling pilot project ends in September of this year and we will have a lot more evidence to help determine additional improvements to better serve citizens. I will remain a strong advocate and voice for the 48th and the Eastside to keep us moving.
CREATING A FAMILY-FRIENDLY ECONOMY
Women make up half the workforce today, but our workplace policies do not make it easy for women to balance their jobs and family responsibilities. Women make only 78 cents to the dollar that men earn. But wages are only the beginning. Only 13% of Americans have access to paid family leave. Only 37% can take medical leave. Additionally, 80% of low-wage workers cannot earn a single sick day. We can do better.
The first step is a minimum wage that helps struggling families make ends meet. Next, we need to provide improved economic opportunity. We can do that by enacting policies that ensure that low wage workers get paid fairly, women receive equal pay for equal work, and that help parents stay home when they are sick or facing other emergencies.
COMBATTING CLIMATE CHANGE
While the President pulled our country out of the Paris Climate Accords, we in Washington know this is the most important challenge of our time – and the time to act is now. We have been and continue to see the impacts of weather disturbances due to rising temperatures. First, we need to ensure our legislative actions are based on science, and take into consideration the advice and recommendations from groups that advocate for our environment every day. Second, we need to continually publicize the immediate and direct impacts of climate change on our daily lives and do what we can on societal and individual levels to mitigate these effects. Finally, the state must continue to lead by example, by upgrading to green fleets, using green technology in our buildings, and innovating to reduce waste. The bottom line is we must reduce carbon emissions and I will continue to support common sense legislation to accomplish that goal.
I believe that healthcare is a human right and that no person should die because they cannot afford health insurance or care. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, people should not be forced to use the emergency room for primary care because they cannot afford health insurance. That is simply unacceptable.
Let’s not forget that our health insurance industry is for-profit. The last estimate I saw was that health care has about 25% profit margin. That’s 25% of an over $3 trillion (yes, “trillion”) industry. That’s an enormous incentive. And while Americans pay more for healthcare than any other high wealth country, we have a lower life expectancy and poorer outcomes overall. We should be getting better bang for our buck. That’s why I’m proud to serve on the Senate Healthcare Committee as the Assistant Ranking Member. In that position, I have advocated for increasing access to care for all Washingtonians and helped pass the first meaningful step forward in women’s reproductive healthcare Washington has seen in recent years, expanding access to contraception for women across Washington State. I will continue to use my voice to stand for those who lack basic healthcare and will continue to look at ways to expand access in our district and across the region.
I have introduced a public option (SB 5984) to allow individuals to purchase health care coverage through the state health benefit exchange. No one should have to live with the fear of losing their livelihood if a loved one becomes sick. This public option would go a long way towards ensuring every Washingtonian has access to quality health care coverage. I've heard from a lot of folks that they'd like to see government run more like a private business. Well, private businesses invest in their assets, and the greatest asset we have as a state is our people, who we need to invest in. In order to fully pursue life, liberty, and happiness, you need to have your health and a quality education. Those are my values and I look forward to continuing to stand up for them.
All of us in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties saw our car tabs hike this year. It was a most unwelcome bill, to say the least. Last March, Sound Transit came to the legislature asking for help in crafting legislation to reduce car tabs while not forcing a default on existing construction bond obligations. I, along with my Democratic colleagues, took that seriously and a compromise bill was crafted that would have done just that. It was voted down. The Republican-led Senate’s bill was offered as a “simple fix.” It sure sounds good, but when you look just beneath the surface, it was clear it didn’t fix anything, and in fact, it made the problem much, much worse.
The problem itself is not so simple, either. Cutting car tabs in half and using the “Kelly Blue Book” both invited protracted and expensive litigation. Why? Because cutting car tab amounts in half meant a $12B shortfall that would have caused Sound Transit to default on its financial obligations to lenders, and our constitution understandably prohibits the state from forcing another public entity to default on its legal financial obligations. In the end, taxpayers would get stuck with the lawsuit bill and no relief on their car tabs. A ‘lose-lose’ for the taxpayer. That’s why I voted no.
My dad used to say, “don’t get fooled by gimmicks.” And if that bill wasn’t a gimmick, it would have flown off the Senate floor 49-0. But my dad didn’t raise a fool, and you shouldn’t be fooled either, by politicians promising you something they know won’t be delivered just to make themselves look good.
I am not done working on this problem. Not by a long shot. I continue to look for creative ways to help all Sound Transit taxpayers lower their car tabs within the framework of our constitution. And I will continue to work hard on this problem until we fix it.
CAR TABS UPDATE:
I've recently dropped a bill to address our car tabs issue. Here's the press release from my legislative website:
I'm committed to solving this problem for my constituents and the people of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. We cannot afford to wait any longer to fix this issue. I've been working very hard and will continue to push for a resolution that puts money back into the pockets of taxpayers while maintaining the integrity of the voter-approved transit projects.