2014 Legislative Update

Admin, February 26, 2014

Dear Friends,

There are only a few weeks left in the 2014 Regular session. Being a short session-only 60 days-there has been a lot of action in a compressed timeframe, and I would like to share with you some of the exciting work being done by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.

The Real Hope Act- Expanding Financial Aid Benefits

The Real Hope Act, Senate Bill 6523, was a bipartisan effort given final approval in the House (the first Bill this session to pass both chambers) and will be signed into law by the Governor on February 26th, in the afternoon. The Real Hope Act is legislation which will expand financial aid to Washington students who have successfully graduated from high school, but who were brought into the country without documentation when they were children. Also, unlike proposals from our state House of Representatives, The Real Hope Act puts necessary funding into our state need grant program to make sure no current students are adversely affected. This bill will help promising young men and women continue their education, expanding on the investment we’ve already made in their high school learning experience. This legislation is great for our economy, making sure these young people are ready for the high demand fields that are currently experiencing employment shortages, like in engineering and computer science.

I was honored to speak on behalf of this Act, as a secondary sponsor of Senate Bill 6523, and I am excited for the new opportunities that The Real Hope Act will bring to those living and learning in Washington State.

Sen. Rodney Tom attends the signing for the Real Hope Act

Sen. Rodney Tom attends the signing for the Real Hope Act

Jobs Now! Plan

This legislative session was off to a strong start at the end of January, when the Workers Recovery Act was passed with a bipartisan vote in the senate. This is an act that will pro-actively foster job creation and assist in maintaining jobs in Washington. It also allows injured workers the option of taking a voluntary settlement of their claims with the Department of Labor and Industry. Similar arrangements are already allowed in 44 other states, helping these states successfully reduce the cost of running the states’ industrial-insurance system, while also benefitting the worker by getting them into a new career, and back on the payroll.

The passage of the Worker’s Recovery Act was followed by the announcement of the Jobs Now! Plan. The plan is a package of bills in the House and Senate that will help private-sector employers generate jobs and preserve them. The Jobs Now! Plan consists of vital legislation that will improve the timeliness and predictability of state agencies’ permitting, provide a good faith defense when employers rely on formal written guidance from an Agency, and expand aerospace tax preferences—along with other proposed bills.

The Worker’s Recovery Act and the Jobs Now! Plan are more than just a step in the right direction in protecting our workers and fostering a healthy economy. These are examples of legislation put forward by the Senate Majority Coalition which focus on bipartisan solutions and place policy over politics.

More Work To Be Done

The 2014 session has focused on cooperative leadership, to successfully pass bipartisan legislation benefiting employees, small business, and students statewide. There is still more work to be done.

Recently, there has been a Bill passed in the House that jeopardizes previous budgets and legislation, and threatens Washington with a deficit. House Bill 2244 works to undo the four-year balanced-budget requirement which prohibits lawmakers from approving a two-year budget that outspends revenue projections for the following two years.  We cannot allow this to happen. Last year, for the first time since 2009, the Majority Coalition passed a balanced budget and we started session this year without facing a deficit. We need to prioritize and live within our means, instead of falling back into self-inflicted deficit spending. Creating deficits today forces higher taxes tomorrow and that is not the pathway to economic development and a vibrant jobs market.

We need to work together to make sure we keep our budget under control—this is one of my main priorities.

With that said, we are also working on a supplemental budget; a supplemental budget is a modification of the current budget, rather than a chance to enact a new program that didn’t make last years’ budget. Often, modifications are made in a supplemental budget to reflect changes in federal law, reacting to court decisions and new economic assumptions. The supplemental budget should be looked at with a common sense view and handled delicately. A change to a program or a small grant today could easily have significant impacts for us next year. This is why we must be vigilant in our efforts, making sure we don’t create non-prioritized spending for next biennium.

Resources need to be available for our priorities-primarily education-and I will continue working until we adjourn to ensure we continue making common sense decisions that will allow our economy to grow.

Look for updates as we wrap up the session and I transition into full-time campaign mode.

Thank you for visiting my website.

Rodney

Gearing Up for 2014

Rodney Tom, December 12, 2013

Dear Friends,

Thank you for visiting my website!  Quite a lot has been happening recently that I want to update you on as well as let you know what to expect this upcoming session.

Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) Formation

I’ve long said that people in our area care more about the bottom line than the party line.  That’s why I am proud to be the Leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus, a bipartisan group of State Senators who formed a coalition last year to lead the State Senate.   The original group of 25 Coalition members agreed to 5 common principles of our Caucus:

  1. Budget sustainability
  2. Promoting job creation
  3. Reforming and enhancing education
  4. Protecting the vulnerable while prioritizing middle class Washingtonians
  5. Holding government accountable

We set out to operate like Washington State, not like Washington D.C., giving members of the opposing caucus a seat at the table and opportunities to chair committees.  Fundamentally, we began with–and continue to focus on–policy before politics, solutions instead of partisanship.

Initial Successes of the MCC

After about one year of leadership in the Senate I am proud to report many significant successes and I am optimistic about more to come.  The single biggest accomplishment so far was passing a bipartisan budget (44-4 in the Senate and 81-11 in the House) in June that:

  • Increased funding for public schools by over $1 billion
  • Did not add new general fund tax increases
  • Froze tuition increases at state colleges and universities for a year, making this year the first time tuition has not increased since 1986
  • Kept the Legislature’s promise to let some previously enacted temporary taxes and fees expire as scheduled
  • Put over $400 million into a reserve fund

These points and more were included in the two year budget.  It was a success for our state as a whole and especially for struggling middle class families in particular, many of whom now have a break from constant tuition increases for their kids.  Instead of reflexively first looking to new taxes, we prioritized our spending, reversing a 30 year trend where general government expenditures outpaced the growth in school funding by 2 to 1.  We set a new precedent by growing education funding by 11.7%, while limiting the growth in general government funding to 3%.

Recent Legislative Sessions

This year the Legislature was actually in session 4 times–starting with a regular session and two special sessions that lasted from January through June, resulting in the passage of the budget mentioned above.  We also held a third special session starting on November 7th and lasting 3 days where we passed two bills to do our part to help keep and add new aerospace jobs in our state.

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful year.  But we’re not done yet.  There’s a lot of work yet to accomplish and I’m ready to take up the challenge!

2014 and Beyond

January is our next scheduled regular session.  There’s a lot yet that we as a Coalition want to focus on then and even before we meet in Olympia.  I and other members of the Coalition are already working with the leadership in the House on a transportation package.  The MCC is committed to making our state’s transportation infrastructure something we can be proud of by implementing both reforms and new revenue in a balanced way.  This will continue to be a priority for me as I know it is something that people in my district and throughout the state care about.

We also will continue to work on policies to promote job growth and a vibrant economy, while  putting more resources into our classrooms.

In the coming months I will continue to update you about how I plan to serve you and the 48th District in the coming year.  Be sure to sign up for email updates at the top of this page so you don’t miss anything!  And please send me your thoughts and concerns.  Send your emails to rodney@rodneytom.com.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Rodney

Thank you for supporting my 2010 re-election campaign!

Rodney Tom, November 17, 2010

Thank you very much for supporting my 2010 re-election campaign to the Washington State Senate!

This campaign was successful because of people like you!  Without your support, we would not be where we are today.

I am looking forward to tackling the challenges ahead and working hard for the people of Washington State.  Please stay in touch, as the only way to truly represent you is to hear from you.



State Senator Rodney Tom participates in groundbreaking event commencing 520 construction project

Rodney Tom, October 27, 2010

The Washington State Department of Transportation held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday for the $306 million state Route 520 Eastside Transit and HOV project.

After 18 years of gridlock, the project is finally moving forward.  As co-chair of the SR-520 Work Group, Senator Tom helped broker the deal to begin construction on the Eastside of the bridge.  Under the current plan, the new bridge is scheduled for completion in 2014.

Work will involve widening the corridor, creating three landscaped lids and building new transit and carpool lanes, shoulders and other facilities along 2.5 miles of SR 520 from west of Evergreen Point Road to east of 108th Avenue Northeast.

The Seattle Times endorses State Senator Rodney Tom for re-election in the 48th Legislative District

Rodney Tom, September 28, 2010

The Seattle Times Editorial Board has endorsed State Senator Rodney Tom in the 48th Legislative District.  On Tuesday, the Times called Tom a “principled moderate that fits his suburban district.”

This is no yes man for the Democratic leadership in Olympia.  He incurred the party’s wrath when he voted against his own caucus’ budget and the $800 million tax package to pay for it.  Tom’s reasoning was elegantly simple.  Lawmakers needed to cut more before raising taxes.

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