Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Wednesday I was sworn into office to serve as your state Senator, representing the 28th Legislative District. The tragic and untimely death of my friend and our Senator, Mike Carrell, led to a quick appointment by the Pierce County Council, naming me to fill Mike’s vacant Senate seat. Mike was a fine public servant and we grieve his passing and pray for Charlotte, his devoted wife, and their family.
It has been a bittersweet time as I mourn the loss of a great friend and mentor, and transition from the House of Representatives to the Senate. The Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) has welcomed me with open arms, and together with the Senate Democratic Caucus, we honored the life and legacy of Sen. Mike Carrell yesterday with the adoption of Senate Resolution 8664.
The memorial service was filled with tributes from many legislators, as well as Gov. Inslee. I also had the honor of speaking in remembrance of Mike, which was extra special because it marked my first speech on the Senate floor. You can watch my floor speech honoring Mike Carrell by clicking HERE.
SPECIAL SESSION UPDATE
Yesterday was the last day (by law) of the first special session and we are still without an agreed-upon budget. The second special session called by the governor began today at 9:00 a.m.
Budget negotiations have taken place regularly and sometimes multiple times a day throughout the first 30-day first special session. At this point, the House Democrats passed a second budget proposal, mostly along party lines, that scaled back its original tax plan. The reduced level of spending is a welcomed change, but unfortunately 75 percent of the reductions came out of education.
The Senate Majority passed a revised budget proposal on Saturday that does make some concessions towards meeting in the middle while putting over an additional billion dollars into education to meet the requirement laid out in the recent McCleary Supreme Court ruling. However, the Senate Majority has consistently fought for no new taxes and the right reforms to better our state education system.
On Sunday, the Senate also approved a reform to our state Workers’ Compensation program that would save employers over a billion dollars in tax increases over the next 10 years.
The House Democrats and the governor still firmly believe that we need more revenue (another word for taxes) in order to adequately fund a budget for the next biennium – and this continues to be a major stalemate in budget negotiations.
I will continue to keep you updated as negotiations press on and a deal is reached.
TRANSPORTATION, JOBS AND GAS-TAX INCREASE – YOUR RESPONSE NEEDED!!
The other big issue looming before the legislature is a possible gas tax increase to pay for new highway and road projects, transit and bridge and road maintenance. The last gas tax increase paid for major transportation improvement projects around the state, especially in Seattle and King County.
However, the proposal being discussed this year would fund major highway improvements needed in Pierce County; over $1 billion to complete SR 167 to connect the Port of Tacoma with the major transportation hub that moves freight east and south across the country and easing congestion on I-5 along JBLM. I am persuaded, as is every other elected leader in Pierce County, that these improvements are key to sustaining and creating jobs for our port and county.
The question though is are these projects worth a 10 cent gas tax increase? The tax increase needed to fund SR 167 and road and bridge maintenance would probably only require a gas tax increase of 5 cents or so. But it is doubtful enough lawmakers from around the state would vote for a gas tax increase unless more projects were funded, and thus the additional 5 cents, for a proposed gas tax increase of 10 cents.
I very much want to hear from you. Is keeping the Port of Tacoma competitive, and easing congestion along JBLM, adequate justification for a gas tax increase of 10 cents when many of us are struggling to make ends meet?
Please take my short, one-question survey or email me your feedback and questions.
UPDATED CONTACT INFORMATION
My move to the Senate brought with it a new office; however, my phone number remains the same. Please update your records to reflect the changes below.
Office Address: 102 Irv Newhouse Building P.O. Box 40428 Olympia, WA 98504-0428
Office Phone: 360-786-7654
Cell Phone: 253-312-1688
Please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions, concerns or ideas. My door is always open to you and if you are going to be in the Olympia area and would like to meet with me, please call my office to schedule an appointment or let us help you plan your visit to the Capitol.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Washington State Senate.
Senator Steve O’Ban