Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A special thanks to those of you who attended my town hall meeting (pictured right) last Saturday. Around 75 local residents came together to share their ideas on a wide range of issues and ask me questions. I was impressed with the thoughtful exchange of ideas. While I plan to have quarterly town hall meetings, please remember you are always welcomed to call, e-mail, write, or visit me.
One of the most significant factors to be watching in our national economy is oil prices. Average Americans already pay about $3.52 for a gallon of gas – up 39 cents over last year. As we all are feeling, these prices are increasing at the pump for several reasons. First, oil refineries are switching their facilities over from winter supply to spring and summer usage. This means each refinery will be out of production while those parts are being changed. Think of it like exchanging your snow tires for regular tires at the end of winter. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are only 137 operating, and 11 idle, oil refineries in America, which is a reason we feel prices surge during the switch over. A second key factor affecting oil prices are the ongoing sanctions against Iran and the political instability in Syria.
As I have stated before, Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation per capita – with approximately one in three jobs being tied to trade. According to the World Institute of Strategic Economic Research, Washington-produced goods increased to a record $64.6 billion in 2011 – equating to a 21 percent increase. Agriculture continues to be very strong – realizing a 31 percent increase this year. As you know, agriculture remains a significant part of our exports.
According to the state's February revenue forecast, the manufacturing sector showed strong job growth – adding 3,600 jobs, with 2,300 in aerospace. Continuing to lag is construction employment, which unfortunately declined by 400 jobs.
The House Republicans released their operating budget proposal last week, emphasizing the priorities of funding education first, ensuring public safety and protecting the most vulnerable. To learn more, please click here.
Our budget differs from the governor's budget by:
- $580 million more for education;
- $40 million more for public safety; and
- $89 million more for the most vulnerable.
The House Democrats released their operating budget proposal on Tuesday and it will likely be voted on in the House early next week. For a side-by-side comparison of House Republican and Democratic plans, please click here.
The Senate Democrats' budget should be coming out sometime next week as well. Then, the two versions will be debated and reconciled in both chambers.
It is an honor to serve our communities in the Legislature. Please contact me if I can ever be of assistance or if you have ideas to pass along.
421 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7922 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000