Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Well, folks, it's that time of year again. Olympia is calling and there's work to be done.
I'm often asked why I would come down off the ranch in Wauconda to spend a few months every year with a bunch of lawyers in suits that cost as much as a good colt. The truth is, as much as the pomp and circumstance of Olympia pains me, I like the fight. Not a day goes by that I don't think of someone I know or someone I've met in the 7th District that's just trying to make ends meet or trying to grab a piece of their version of the American Dream. These are salt-of-the-earth people that aren't looking for government to be all things – they just don't want government to be the one thing that gets in the way!
Perhaps I'm a little archaic, but those folks deserve someone fighting for them and I feel like I know where to push, when to pull and who to connect with to make things happen. I'm not sure there's any perfect system of government but I think ours is pretty darn close and I'm honored to play my part, no matter how small.
Besides, we must be doing something right as my colleagues once again elected me to be Deputy Minority Leader. This role requires me to dole out a measure of “attitude readjustment” from time to time when other representatives, senators, lobbyists and staff need to be reminded of whom we serve.
Gov. Inslee wants $4.4 billion in new and increased taxes
We have a lot of work ahead of us this session. We need changes to our mental health system; we need to continue our efforts to reform how education in this state is financed; we need to make sure our state economy works for suburban and rural communities; we need to preserve private property rights and manage our public lands more effectively. These challenges require bold, unique solutions; not the same old Olympia Band-Aid of throwing more money at it and hoping for the best.
The governor is required to get the budget ball rolling by proposing his spending plan before session starts. His $4.4 billion increase in taxes includes a carbon tax, a B&O tax increases, a tax on bottled water, and an income tax on capital gains. These are all ideas we've seen before – ideas that have either been rejected by the voters or ideas that couldn't garner support from the governor's own party in the state House.
Luckily, there are still 49 Senators and 98 Representatives that still have a say in the final 2017-19 budget. It will be an arduous process but I anticipate the final budget will look very little like the one proposed by Gov. Inslee. With all the supposed confusion about what the voters were saying this year, one thing remains crystal clear: people want taxes to be a last resort not the first option on the table!
Know someone who wants to be a legislative page?
I have the opportunity to sponsor several legislative pages throughout the session. A page delivers interoffice mail, attends page school to learn more about the legislative process, and can even take part in the daily flag procession. Many pages have gone on to be legislative interns, session aides, legislative assistants, staffers and elected officials.
A legislative page must be between the ages of 14-16 and get permission from parents and school. They stay with host families in the Olympia area and are paid $35/day. For more information on the page program and how to apply, click here or call my Olympia office at (360) 786-7988.
Olympia office and my new Legislative Assistant
Speaking of calling my Olympia office, I have a new Legislative Assistant, Jasmine Vomenici. We have a long history of dedicated, quality LAs working for the 7th District and I know Jasmine will continue in that tradition. She's already proving to be a quick learner and an asset to my office as we work for you. With the 2017 legislative session just a couple of weeks away, Jasmine is already in Olympia preparing for the long march ahead. If you have a question or concern, or just need to share your ideas for potential legislation, feel free to give my office a call. The Omak district office is closed but in Olympia we are open for business.
And just a reminder – if you want to come to Olympia during session for a visit, please contact my office with as much advance notice as possible. We'll always make time on the schedule to meet with folks from back home. We can also help arrange tours of the Capitol campus and make your visit the best it can be.
Taking a walk with the new lands commissioner
I had the opportunity this week to meet with Hilary Franz, the new Washington State Lands Commissioner. We toured the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area with Dale Swedberg, former manager of the area and someone who knows more than a thing or two about prescribed burns and proper thinning.
With Hilary's background I was initially wary of this visit. Let's be honest; we come from very different worlds, with different backgrounds, priorities and goals. I know there are going to be times where we disagree – vehemently! We're going to have our share of tussles, I'm sure. But that being said, I have to say I was impressed. Hilary has a very strong interest in forest management, forest health and wildfire prevention. She took notes, asked questions, and seemed to know what she didn't know. I've found that folks who think they know everything tend to do nothing.
But Hilary was very interested in the successful wildfire prevention results we've seen in the Sinlahekin with Dale's prescribed burning and thinning efforts. It's hard to argue with results that are so tangible and viewable. She saw firsthand while driving through miles of devastated moonscape only to see healthy thriving forests again in the Sinlahekin where a hundred years' worth of fuel has been properly disposed of through prescribed burns and effective thinning. It's a shock, for sure. And I usually get the same reaction from every elected official from the West side when they see it. A light goes on in their eyes and you can just tell they finally get it. The Puget Sound environmental method of “managing” forests is killing us here in Central and Eastern Washington.
In a nutshell, that's why you've elected me. My job is to fight for you and for our rural way of life. And that involves building relationships with people that don't understand our issues, our landscape, our values and our priorities. And then I get them to cross that magical mountain divide and hopefully a light goes on and we have a little more success. We might not score a touchdown with each effort; but let's keep that ball moving, little by little, to protect our way of life.
I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas. And I hope this next year brings you peace, health, grace and success. My door is always open and again, I thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you in the state House of Representatives.