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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In a few weeks, I will be delivering the commencement address at Whitworth University. I am honored to speak to the graduating students at my alma mater. I've been working on my speech during the evenings here in Olympia, and I can't help but be excited about the future of both Spokane and the state.
This session I've had the privilege of meeting with so many outstanding young people from home who came to visit Olympia, from the Mead High girls basketball state champions to Lilac Festival royalty. And now I get to give an address to the 2013 Whitworth graduating class, knowing that future leaders of our communities, state and country will be listening.
This week there was a story in the Spokesman Review about the unemployment rate in Spokane County falling to 9.1 percent. While this rate is still much higher than the statewide unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, any improvement in the unemployment rate is a positive indicator towards an economic recovery. Typically in recessions urban areas recover faster than rural areas.
We are inevitably headed into legislative overtime, which equals a special session.Negotiations are ongoing, but the bottom line is that the Senate and House operating budgets are still too far apart.
To refresh your memory, the House Democrat plan includes over $1.22 billion in new and increased taxes, leaves very little in reserves, and drains the state's rainy day fund. The Senate Majority Coalition plan gives $1 billion to our K-12 schools, balances over four years, and does this without relying on tax increases. I will keep you posted on the progress as we move forward.
Last week a bill I worked on with legislators from across the aisle passed the House and is on the way to the governor for signature. Senate Bill 5405 concerns children in our foster care system, which is an issue that has become very close to me during my time as a legislator. The bill modifies provisions relating to extended foster care services. When the bill came into the House Appropriations Committee, I saw some places for improvement. So I worked with the sponsors on a striking amendment which was adopted and now is a part of the bill.
I think it's important to share stories like this because it shows the way business should be done in Olympia: legislators from both sides of the aisle working together to craft the best legislation possible regardless of whether the bill was sponsored by a Republican or Democrat.
Please contact me if I can help in any way.
421 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7922 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000