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.
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.