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31st District representatives discuss issues and priorities
This is the second installment of a short series where local legislators answer questions concerning both the 31st District and the state.
Legislators convened in Olympia Jan. 13 for the 2014 session, which is scheduled to end March 13.
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn responded last week. This week Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater, and Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, discussed issues they are working on during the session.
1. What are the top issues you believe should be addressed during the legislative session?
Dahlquist: We created a two-year budget that balances over four years for the first time ever. We wrote and passed that state operating budget last session. This is a 60-day session, and the intent of a short session is to make minor adjustments to that budget based on increases or decreases in case load forecasts changes, so we are not looking to make major budget expenditures. We started down a path last session with a two-year budget that added an additional $1.6 billion to K-12 education for things like all-day kindergarten, K-1 class-size reduction, pupil transportation and materials, supplies and operating costs, or MSOCs. This investment puts the Legislature on track to meet the funding requirements for K-12 education by the statutory deadline of the 2018 school year.
One of the other items we funded was creating equity in a high school diploma by aligning all our high schools to a 24 credit requirement for graduation. This continues our work to set the bar high for students because we know they will meet the challenge. Since this policy was funded in last year’s budget we need to align the policy to the money that was already allocated.
Hurst: Most important is sustaining the economic recovery and jobs. Nothing is more important this session. We have passed the legislation necessary to assure that Boeing will build the next generation of commercial airliners here in Washington state. That means tens of thousands of family wage jobs will be kept here at home. Securing our economic future and the future of our kids is job one. The Boeing legislation goes a very long way in making that happen.
2. What is your No. 1 concern facing either our district or state?
Hurst: The second part is making sure we have a world-class education system to have a workforce that can compete in the global marketplace not only in aerospace, but with everything we make or produce. We need to bring manufacturing jobs back home from places like China, but this can only happen with a well educated population and workforce. There is reason for optimism as we recover from the Great Recession, but everyone can be part of the solution when we buy locally and support our local businesses that hire our fellow citizens and family members.
Dahlquist: I’m very concerned about the possibility of a large transportation tax package being pushed on the Legislature. With the issues we are having with the Seattle Tunnel and 520 Bridge projects, I cannot fathom asking taxpayer for an additional 11.5 cents per gallon more for gasoline for a state agency that needs better oversight and accountability.
My other concern is the governor holding lawmakers here for yet another 30-day special session, only to find there is not an agreement on tax measures and other controversial topics.
3 Discuss any issue you would like to address that those in the district should be aware of concerning the legislative session.
Dahlquist: Our economy is slowly improving but we have a lot of work ahead to get Washingtonians back to work. The work we did to ensure Boeing’s 777X carbon fiber wing work and assembly would stay here is a good step. But we can do more to help all business sectors, which I hope we will get moving toward this session.
This improving economy has also meant good news to state budget writers. We are seeing tax collections growing roughly $2 billion every two-year budget cycle, or 7 percent. This means more funds to allocate to K-12 education and the safety net programs to assist our most vulnerable.
Hurst: Folks are really tired of partisan bickering and posturing by elected officials. People are losing confidence in our system of self-governance because the radical fringe of the political parties driving so much of their agendas. I am committed working with my seatmate in the House, Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, to do our best to work as a team and be an example of how elected officials can collaborate to find solutions together as a team to address the problems and issues our communities and state face.