Telephone town hall
On March 31, I will be holding a telephone town hall at 7 p.m. I have found this format is an excellent way to reach a significant amount of people in the district and still allow them to participate. You can join the “community conversation” by calling toll-free 1-877-229-8493 and entering 14881. You can listen in, ask questions and participate in polls.
Small business legislation
Today, my small business assistance legislation, House Bill 1150, passed the Senate by a vote of 47-0. On March 3, it passed the House by a vote of 96-0. The bill now heads to the Governor for her consideration.
This legislation simply says that a small business unknowingly in violation of a rule or regulation for the first time has one calendar week to correct that violation without a monetary fine. The unanimous, bipartisan approval of this bill by both bodies in the Legislature is a step in the right direction as we work to help small businesses through this difficult time, get our families and communities working again, and foster a sustainable economic recovery.
Latest revenue forecast
Negotiations have intensified as budget writers take into account the latest 2011-2013 revenue forecast that was issued March 17. With an adjustment downward of an additional 780 million, it creates an approximate $5.1 billion shortfall between state government agency requests, our obligations and the revenue forecast. It's important to remember that even with the March 17 news, we will collect more tax revenue this biennium than we did last biennium. The projected revenues are approximately $3.9 billion more than we received in 2009-2011. What isn't available are the one-time dollars that were used by majority party budget writers last time (federal stimulus and dedicated account dollars for example) to make up the last shortfall. These practices have only exacerbated our situation today, and clearly illustrate the need to restructure and provide a sustainable, prioritized budget.
This news highlights why the Legislature must remain focused on getting Washingtonians working again. The sooner we get people back to work in the private sector, the sooner we will see a sustainable economic recovery. Faced with a $5.1 billion dollar budget shortfall, we must adopt a responsible, sustainable operating budget within the 105-day session.
On March 25, we passed a solid, bipartisan House Transportation Budget. I supported the $8.9 billion budget for the 2011-13 biennium for a number of reasons. First, we were able to preserve most of the projects on the transportation funding list with no additional revenues. We did not add any new projects and, most important, I believe it was a responsible budget for our ferry system, especially given the circumstances we have been dealt. My colleagues and I in the ferry caucus continue to fight reductions in service and the size of proposed fare increases. Although we understand something will be needed because of several factors, including significant fuel cost increases. The current proposal is less than the governor's request, and we'll continue to work this issue diligently. A fuel surcharge was not included in the House budget.
Money is provided in the budget for completion of the third 64-car ferry ($32 million). The budget also allocates $65 million for the start of the 144-car ferry in fiscal year 2013. And, it takes into account $10 million savings per year from negotiated collective bargaining contracts with ferry workers. My priority will continue to be recognition of our marine highways as a critical part of our transportation infrastructure, safe boats and sustainable, reliable, cost efficient service for our communities. Keep in mind this is only the House version so there can still be some changes as we work with the Senate for a final transportation budget plan.
In a letter sent to the governor earlier this month, a bipartisan group of legislators representing ferry communities came together with recommendations to move our ferry system forward. By uniting not as Republicans and Democrats, but as legislators who truly understand the essential economic importance of our ferries, we were able to influence the transportation budget in a positive way for our ferry communities. Should any of you wish to see the letter and recommendations, I am happy to provide it upon your request.
If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact my office. Again, I can be reached at (360) 786-7884 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for reading my e-mail update. I look forward to your continued input on the issues of importance to you. Have a lovely week.