Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week my colleagues paid me the honor of appointing me Chair of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. It’s humbling, especially as a freshman senator, to lead a committee that supports and protects children, their families, and the needs of the most vulnerable. I will work hard to protect these needs. For more information about the committee, please click HERE.
This has been a year of many changes. I was elected to the state House of Representatives in November 2012 and served as Assistant Floor Leader until I was appointed to the Senate in June 2013, on the passing of Senator Mike Carrell. In addition to chairing the above committee, I am also Vice-Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Session officially ended about a month ago and even though it took extra time to complete our work, I am pleased with the final outcome.
The final budget will fundamentally reshape the state’s approach to how we spend taxpayers’ hard-earned money. We are investing more in our children AND we hold the line on taxes. It is truly a budget that lives within our state’s means. Not only do general taxes not increase this year, but $630 million in taxes expire to keep more money in the pockets of individual taxpayers and small businesses. This was just what the new Majority Coalition promised to do – and we did it!
We invested $15.2 billion into K-12 education for the next two years – that is an 11% increase in total funding. Additionally, we required key reforms, such as reading proficiency, class-size reduction, all-day kindergarten, and increased instructional hours, to improve student outcomes and help education dollars go even further.
One of the big “wins” this year was for higher education. For the first time in 27 years, the Legislature held the line on tuition and did not increase tuition at all. This gives middle class families a much needed break and helps make college education for their children more affordable. We are also putting more money into STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) degrees.
MILITARY TO CIVILIAN JOB TRANSITION
My veteran-jobs bill, House Bill 1537, was unanimously approved by the Legislature this year and became law on July 28. The measure allows military personnel to apply for public-sector jobs and get the benefit of their well-earned veteran preference, PRIOR to leaving military service. This will help them transition into civilian life without a period of unemployment.
We can reform the Department of Transportation! I will continue the work I started this year to put strategic reforms in place that will make the state Department of Transportation more transparent and accountable. My measure, House Bill 1986, passed in the House twice this year and would have required WSDOT to report engineering errors and recommendations on how to avoid similar errors in the future. I’ll get it enacted next year. We can no longer tolerate design errors that cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions in unnecessary cost overruns. It’s time to rebuild trust in WSDOT before we build more mega projects.
NEW DISTRICT OFFICE
In July, Representative Dick Muri from Steilacoom was appointed to fill my vacant seat in the House of Representatives. He will be a great representative for the 28th Legislative District. We are in the process of opening up a shared district office. I will let you know of the address as soon as details are finalized.
Please call me any time with your questions and concerns; my cell phone number is: 253-312-1688. Or please contact my legislative assistant, Michelle Lewis at360-786-7654 if you would like to set up a time to meet for coffee.
Senator Steve O’Ban