We are off to a fast start in the 2015 legislative session. Education, mental health, and transportation are key issues for the Legislature, and I will also be focusing on veteran’s issues, job growth and insisting that government live within its means.
It is an honor to serve as your state senator.
Senator Steve O’Ban
The Budget & Education
This session will focus on producing a new two-year state budget that provides additional funding for K-12 schools. We are under a court order to fully fund basic education in our state, known as the McCleary decision. For 30 years, before I came to the Legislature, non-education government spending grew exponentially and dwarfed K-12 funding.
Without any change in taxes the state’s projected revenue has increased by nearly $3 billion, an 8.6 percent increase over the revenue collected these past two years. It seems to me we ought to make every effort to meet our obligations within existing revenues before we start talking about tax increases. But, unfortunately, the governor’s budget proposal increases state spending by a whopping 15.4 percent. He wants to create new taxes and increase other taxes, including a “cap and trade” tax scheme on carbon emissions that will increase the price we pay for gas and home heating fuel and create a tax on savings and investment.
This is not sustainable budgeting. Our economy cannot bear an increase in taxes of this size without it costing jobs in the long run. I have worked hard since becoming your state senator to find bipartisan solutions to state government’s financial challenges. I was glad to support budgets in 2013 and 2014 that had solid bipartisan support, prioritized our state’s spending and did not raise taxes.
We invested over $1 billion in education in the 2013-15 budget and are poised to make the necessary investments again this budget cycle to meet our obligations to fund basic education under the McCleary decision.
Our roads and highways are nearing capacity and threaten our long term economic well-being. A key artery of commerce in our county is the I- 5 corridor through JBLM. It is also a vital north-south corridor on which our manufacturing and shipping industries rely.
Recent estimates from the state department of transportation have indicated that costs for fully addressing congestion through the corridor are nearly half the original estimate of over $820 million, now around $450 million. If there is to be a transportation package this session, I am working to make sure it addresses this key chokepoint.
Our state has made headlines recently for the numerous failures in our mental-health system. This is a priority issue. We must reform how our state delivers these essential services to produce better outcomes for families and patients.
Senate Bill 5269, to be known as “Joel’s Law” after Joel Rueter, a mentally ill man who was shot and killed in Seattle in July 2013; his family had been unable to obtain the treatment they needed for their son. We cannot have tragedies like this repeated.
We need to do better for our state’s most vulnerable. I sponsored this bill so families would be allowed to petition a court for a review if their efforts to civil commitment have been denied by a designated mental-health professional.
The second bill heard before the committee related to investing in programs that treat mental illness and chemical dependency disorders. Senate Bill 5078 directs a portion of the marijuana excise tax collected as a result of Initiative 502 to be utilized for evidence-based or community programs that promote recovery and reduce the need for inpatient hospitalization.
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I have sponsored numerous bills that address veterans’ issues, small business, reforms to our transportation system and changes in our criminal code. Please see below for information on my sponsored legislation and links to find out more about particular bills.
The list below is not exhaustive. Please click here to see other legislation that I have sponsored.
Western State Hospital Funding (SB 5261) – Requires Western State Hospital to enter into a contract with the city in which it is located for the provision of community policing services at the hospital and in the surrounding areas.
Deficit Reimbursement/ Ferries (SB 5307) – Increases the amount of funds that may be distributed to Pierce, Skagit, and Whatcom counties for a deficit incurred in the operation and maintenance of the ferry system owned and operated by the county.
Competency & Restoration Services (SB 5177) – The intent of this bill is to improve timeliness of mental health evaluations. It encourages DSHS to develop alternative locations and increased access to services for individuals who do not require impatient hospitalization.
Modifying organized retail theft provisions (SB 5037) -This is the “flash-robbery” bill that would stiffen penalties for organized retail theft. Flash robbery is a crime that occurs when a group of individuals uses electronic and internet communication such as Twitter to organize mass thefts from retail stores.
Death Penalty (SB 5039) – This bill affirms the authority of the clemency and pardons board to make recommendations to the governor regarding petitions for reprieve to ensure that victims and other stakeholders are heard.