My first session in Olympia continues to be both educational and exciting. We have passed several important cut-off dates. We are busy now hearing bills brought to us from the Senate. Since my last email update, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many familiar faces, interviewing royalty and beginning more active negotiations on our state budget.
Apple Blossom Royalty
Last week, I was able to host the 2017 Apple Blossom Royal Court. Queen Amy Sand, Princesses Alissa Riker, and Princess Paige Chvilicek spoke with me on the House floor during their visit to the capitol campus in Olympia.
These young women were not only articulate and educated, but spoke with me about the community service they look forward to providing the Wenatchee Valley. I have no doubt we’ll continue to see great things from them over the coming year.
Updates from Committee
Last week, I was happy to see a familiar face in the Technology & Economic Development Committee. John Stoll, Managing Director of Customer Utilities from the Chelan County PUD, gave an impressive presentation about innovative ways to provide safe and affordable power. I’m tremendously proud Chelan County is leading the charge in ensuring energy rates are equitable across our district.
Last week, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which releases a quarterly revenue forecast report, announced Washington state will see a significant increase in revenue this year. According to the council, the lawmakers and budget writers can expect increases of $1.1 billion in the 2015-17 budget cycle and $700 million in the 2017-19 budget cycle compared to the report released in Feb. 2016.
This additional revenue comes as a result of increased economic activity, including additional spending that helps generate revenue from the sales tax, and additional spending on property. While these upturns haven’t reached all corners of the state yet, it’s a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
Additionally, this increase in revenue and economic activity reinforces my belief that Washington state does not have a revenue problem, but an efficiency problem. I believe we have an obligation to live within out means, develop innovative ways to improve government spending and ensure all citizens of our district and state have what they need to thrive. Over the last biennium we have seen a nearly $3 billion increase in state revenues from the positive growth in our economies. The increase is more than enough to fully fund education, meet the state’s basic obligations and protect our most vulnerable citizens.
On March 22 I was able to meet with Mary and Denise who were both visiting Olympia from East Wenatchee. We were able to discuss the importance of PERS 1 COLA increases and medical premium reimbursement, both of which I was happy to see were included in the first drafts of the House operating budget, which was released on Monday. The inclusion of this money represents a promise we made to these retirees years ago. I believe it is time we live up to that promise by restoring these funds.
I’ll be tracking these and other issues closely as budget negotiations increase over the final weeks of session.
I encourage you to follow the budget process closely and please be involved by telling me what areas of funding are most important to you. The budget process is still in its early phases and I look forward to representing your needs in Olympia.
As always, it is important that I continue to hear directly from you. Budget negotiations are on the horizon, and creating equitable opportunities across the Chelan and Wenatchee valleys remains a priority for me.
Please call me at (360)786-7832, or email me at Mike.Steele@leg.wa.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.