March 26, 2015
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Senate continues to deliver on issues that matter most to families across the state. We are focused on job creation, making college affordable, critical transportation reforms, congestion relief, and reforming our state’s mental health system. This week the House of Representatives plans to unveil their budget proposal. The good news is that the state has $3 billion in additional revenue. We trust that the House will send us a budget that lives within in our means.
Progress on mental health reform
The Governor signed my bill, Senate Bill 5889, into law which would take steps to address wait times for mentally ill defendants to receive evaluations. This bill makes important changes to reduce wait times for competency evaluations and get the mentally ill effective treatment.
There is a great sense of urgency to make our mental health system more efficient and accountable. Our state’s mental health system has been the focus of several recent federal court cases, and I am pleased to see progress happening this session.
State has $3 billion more
When it comes to the state budget, I believe we must live within our means just like you do with your family budget. Thankfully, there is $3 billion in additional revenue for the next budget cycle.That’s an 8 percent increase. Any business and family would welcome that growth level in their budget. Here is how we should approach developing a budget.
Majority Coalition Caucus budget goals:
This week the House of Representatives will release their budget proposal.The big question is “will they present a balanced budget that includes new taxes to cover added spending?” We have a four year balanced budget requirement; no gimmicks, no raiding the rainy day fund and unbalanced budgets don’t count.
You deserve to see a complete budget that includes the real costs. This is essential to beginning honest negotiations on the state’s estimated $37 billion budget and to finish on time. In 2014 the Legislature adjourned on time – the first time in a decade. This year the Senate worked to move the state revenue forecast up early so we can achieve that goal again.
Jobs and education opportunities for veterans
Our community is home to nearly 140,000 active duty service members, their families, veterans and civilian support. I am working on a Senate resolution that will honor organizations in our community and across the state that assist our service men and women in their transition back to civilian life. The Legislature is working to address issues faced by our nation’s heroes such as access to education and good paying jobs when they separate from service.
Veterans still face higher unemployment than other demographic groups even though they possess superior training and skills. To address this issue I introduced legislation that incentivizes hiring unemployed veterans by providing a tax credit to businesses.
Two other bills are working their way through the legislative process that deal with veterans and their families’ access to higher education. House Bill 1052 requires that colleges and universities that offer early registration also offer this to spouses of eligible veterans and National Guard members using veteran’s education benefits. In addition, the House unanimously passed House Bill 1644, which allows waivers of fees and tuition for children of eligible veterans or National Guard members. The bill corrects gaps between state and federal law and provides support to our service men and women as they enter civilian life.
It is an honor to represent you as your state Senator. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (360)786-7654 if I can be of service to you or your family on those issues that impact you and our community.
28th District Senator
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
– Sir Winston Churchill
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