By Rep. Christopher Hurst
For The Courier-Herald
As your state representative it is important to know your values and opinions. A few weeks ago I placed a survey in the local paper. I was pleased with the number of responses. The survey gave people an opportunity to answer questions and also allowed them to share their own ideas as well. The survey results are below and although people shared many other great ideas, I will touch on a few of the common themes multiple folks mentioned.
The overall goal of the survey was to judge how the people felt during these difficult economic times. Jobs and the economy are clearly the most important issues we face, but I put in a couple of other questions that many people have been writing to me about in recent months. The results of the survey are as follows:
The legislature should address the shortfall in our state’s current budget crisis; 61 percent said only through budget cuts, 7 percent said through only increasing revenue and 32 percent said that we should do a combination of both budget cutting and increasing revenue.
After a 3 percent pay cut and 7 percent reduction in work force to state employees in the past budget; 50 percent believe that the cuts need to go further, 40 percent believe they were about right, and 10 percent believe that they went too far.
The regulation of marijuana should be left up to; 60 percent said the individual states and 40 percent believe the federal government should continue to regulate it.
Increased partisan bickering has impacted the efficiency of the state legislature; 72 percent believe it has effected it to a great degree, 6 percent believe it had a moderate effect, and 19 percent felt it has stayed the same.
With the rise of gang violence how concerned are people in our community; 58 percent said they were very concerned, 37 percent mildly concerned, and 5 percent not concerned at all.
There is a current initiative that would allow liquor to be sold in large major food retail stores; 61 percent support the state getting out of the liquor business and 39 percent want to keep the system as it is.
In our struggling economy here is how people felt about the security of their jobs; 7 percent very secure, 25 percent mildly secure, 22 percent were uncertain, 18 percent not secure, 10 percent had lost a job, and 15 percent either didn’t have a job or were retired.
Concerning people’s confidence about the security and economic stability for other folks in their community; 14 percent felt very secure, 12 percent mildly secure, 41 percent uncertain, and 32 percent not secure. This was very revealing about general consumer confidence.
Additionally here are a few other issues:
Many people said the state should have a balanced budget. Actually we do. This is a common misconception between Washington state and the federal government. Unlike the federal government, which can print money and spend as much as they want, Washington’s constitution prohibits us from having a budget deficit. Our budget is balanced every two years.
Our budget shortfall comes from declining revenue when the economy goes bad.
Many people also commented on cutting waste in state agencies, however, the vast majority of them pointed out the Department of Social and Health Services. This is probably due in part to the large number of investigative stores that have run in recent months in the media about welfare fraud. DSHS is also a very large portion of this state’s discretionary spending. There are currently several proposals that would break up DSHS and in some cases return many of its functions back to the county or local level. Many efficiencies and cuts have already been enacted to state agencies in the last two legislative sessions. Some, like the Department of Corrections, could not sustain further cuts without putting the public at risk.
A number of folks called for harsher penalties for drunk drivers who kill people. As chairman of the Public Safety Committee I take this very seriously. This coming session I will prime sponsor a bill to increase penalties for drunks who commit vehicular homicide.
Many felt bicycles should be licensed so that they pay their fair share for using our roads and bike lanes, just like cars and motorcycles. People also felt that bicyclists would be held more accountable when they violate traffic laws or cause accidents if they could be identified.
Bring industrial production back to the United States. Most products that consumers buy are imported; this takes away jobs from Americans. The middle class is disappearing because of the loss of these living wage jobs. Making and buying products in the United States keeps Americans employed.
Thanks to everyone who responded and keep sharing your suggestions and ideas.
Rep. Christopher Hurst represents the 31st Legislative District, is chairman of the House Public Safety Committee and is serving his ninth year in the legislature.