The Current | September 13, 2013

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The Current

Your citizen Legislature • Washington House Republicans • September 13, 2013

Rep. Dan Kristiansen

Letter from Leadership

What a great time of the year. School has started, the football season is underway, community events like apple squeezes and salmon bakes are taking place, and we know there are a few more summer days to enjoy before the fall season sets in. 

We have a lot to be grateful for as a state, but we cannot forget that too many people are still out of work or struggling to get by. While our economy is improving, there is no guarantee the recovery is sustainable. This fact continues to be on our minds as we meet with constituents, speak with community groups and prepare for the 2014 legislative session.   

As we look ahead, we know a transportation revenue package will be front and center as state lawmakers arrive in Olympia in January. You can learn more about this issue to the right. We also know there continues to be a push from the left to raise taxes in an effort to increase state spending. This group was unsuccessful earlier this year, but vowed to return in 2014. We hope you stay engaged in these issues and others that impact our communities.

In your service,
Rep. Dan Kristiansen
39th District
House Republican Leader

In the news

The Capitol Buzz

Want to stay current with the issues impacting your communities and state? Find a weekday compilation of stories from daily newspapers in the Capitol Buzz. You can subscribe here.

"Once we have a handle on those cost-drivers (transportation projects), we can implement legislation to drive the costs down ... That will give taxpayers confidence they are putting their hard-earned money into a system that is efficient, responsible and accountable."

Rep. Ed Orcutt, ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, on why we need to reform our transportation system before we consider raising the state gas tax again. Read his statement from September 4 here.  

Back to school

Back to school 

It's that special time of year again -- when students are eager, parents are sentimental and teachers are prepared for the new school year. 

It's also a good time to highlight what happened in the 2013 legislative sessions to benefit our K-12 education system. Not only did we increase state funding to $15.1 billion, up from $13.6 billion in the previous two-year operating budget, we passed meaningful reforms that will improve student outcomes, help teachers and address persistently-struggling schools. 

To learn more, please read Rep. Cathy Dahlquist's issue update. She is our ranking member on the House Education Committee. You can find her update here.

Legislative Scholars Program

Christine Petterborg, a teacher from Spokane, participates in the Legislative Scholars Program. In case you missed it, we highlighted this great program in the last edition of The Current.

State Health Benefit Exchange begins October 1 

While we continue to have concerns with several aspects of Obamacare, two of its major components -- the expansion of Medicaid and creation of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange -- are moving forward at the state level.

In an opinion piece earlier this year, our health care lead, Rep. Joe Schmick, explains that the expansion of Medicaid is not a panacea. You can find it here.  

The Exchange was an option for our state and established by Senate Bill 5445 in 2011. It is a new health insurance marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in our state. Open enrollment begins October 1.

Many of the concerns we had in 2011 we continue to have today. For example, the cost of the Exchange. Through House Bill 1947 this year, we took away the Exchange’s authority to set its own funding level, and gave this authority to the Legislature. State lawmakers, in turn, reduced the Exchange’s  funding level from the requested $51 million to $40 million for 2015.

Beyond Obamacare and the Exchange, our state continues to have an overregulated health insurance market that has resulted in more costs and fewer options. These problems must be addressed.

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Transportation revenue package debate hits the road 

Are you willing to pay an additional 10.5 cents for each gallon of gas you buy to pay for transportation projects and operations across the state? That -- along with weight/registration fee increases on passenger vehicles -- is what you may pay if a new transportation revenue package passes the Legislature and is signed into law.

Governor Inslee is pushing for a special session later this year to force a package through -- before we get the results of a legislative study on transportation costs and recommendations on how to reduce those costs. House Democrats tried to ram a package through last June, but it failed in the state Senate.

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus is taking a more inclusive and thorough approach by requesting input from Washingtonians at bipartisan forums across the state. Learn more about these events here and below. 

  • September 17 -- Bellevue
  • September 18 -- Everett
  • September 23 --Wenatchee
  • September 24 -- Yakima
  • September 26 -- Tri-Cities
  • October 2 -- Spokane
  • October 7 --Vancouver
  • October 9 -- Tacoma
  • October 14 -- Seattle
  • October 15 -- Bellingham

House Republicans have been clear and consistent on this transportation issue: Fix it before you fund it.

Before the Legislature even considers asking more from you at the pump, the state must ensure your gas tax dollars are used efficiently and effectively. This means addressing the cost drivers that make transportation projects more expensive in our state -- some more than twice the cost of similar projects in other states -- by demanding accountability from the Washington State Department of Transportation and ensuring that high-profile errors from past revenue packages never happen again.

Our state has transportation needs -- including new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing infrastructure. But if it is going to be done, it must be done right -- with important accountability mechanisms in place.

We also cannot forget that many families and employers are struggling and cannot afford to pay more each time they fill up their vehicles.

Rep. Shelly Short

Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup

We all want to be good stewards of our environment and preserve it for generations to come. We also want government to make informed decisions when it comes to policies that affect our environment. These decisions need to be based on sound facts and take into consideration the impact on the availability of jobs, the economy and families -- including fuel, energy, food and housing costs.

Senate Bill 5802, which passed earlier this year, established the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. This workgroup is in the process of examining policies impacting the cyclical nature of our climate, including policies that have worked -- or not worked -- in other states and countries. Rep. Shelly Short represents us in this effort. 

Why is this work important? Because the Legislature is taking the rare step of quantifying the impact these decisions would have on the economy and families.

To learn more about the workgroup, including past and upcoming meetings, click here. Below are dates and locations of the next three meetings.   

  • October 16 --Spokane
  • October 23 -- Seattle
  • December 6 -- Olympia