Representative Reuven Carlyle is entering his second year as a 36th District Representative to the state legislature. Before the session starts next week, Carlyle wants to know what’s important to you and give you an idea of what he’s planning for the session.
The following is written by Rep. Carlyle:
The bang of the gavel opens the 2010 session of the Legislature on January 11, and the depth of the challenges we face in the 60-day sprint reflect the seriousness that people are feeling in their daily lives.
Before I put my life as a husband, father and entrepreneur on hold to serve in Olympia as your citizen legislator, I wanted to reach out and connect about the pressing issues facing our state as we enter the legislative session.
What are the policy issues that inspire you to act, and what can state government do to be more responsive to your values and interests? Please make suggestions in the thread, spend some time on my active blog at www.reuvencarlyle36.com or email me anytime at email@example.com. Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter where I’m working to keep you informed from inside your government. My goal is to be the first ‘paperless’ legislative office.
This year, given the difficult economic times in which we live, there is little besides the budget on the table. But how we handle the budget is a moral question not just a financial one. The state’s $32 billion two-year budget (driven by consumer-purchasing related taxes) is staggering under the weight of the economic downturn. This year’s projected $2.6 billion budget deficit–following a projected $9 billion gap last year that we balanced–has forced the most substantive reassessment of our public priorities in generations.
At the same time, the need for essential public services has greatly expanded. Schools, universities, nursing homes, child care centers, homeless shelters, unemployment assistance, job training, mass transit, roads and much more are all struggling to function while demand increases.
Adding to the crunch, more than 60% of the state’s budget is constitutionally protected for institutions like K-12 education, or federally driven for programs like Medicaid. This means the pressure to cut those services not protected—higher education, Basic Health Plan, environment, foster youth care and other programs—is immense.
It is widely recognized that we have one the most unfair, unjust and wildly inefficient tax structure in the nation. We should dust off the Gates Commission Tax Structure Study and have a courageously honest conversation about building a modern, 21st Century structure that is more stable, efficient and equitable.
I have publicly said I will not vote for a second ‘all cuts’ budget as the basic safety net and lifeline of a moral and just society would be nearly paralyzed. But I also will not vote for a timid budget that fails to embrace the opportunity of this crisis. Yes, we need additional revenues to fund public education. But taxes alone are not a substitute for bold systems reforms in how we do business in Olympia.
I believe it is time for state government to consider outsourcing key aspects of the liquor business, for example, as well as some of its licensing, printing and technology functions. In my view, the state should reduce the number of ‘commodity’ lines of service delivery that the private sector can provide more efficiently and affordably with transparent government project management and financial oversight. And we must tackle hard questions about what level of government should provide what service.
In the months ahead, we are actively competing for hundreds of millions in federal dollars in education (Race to the Top funds continue to be one of my top priorities), clean energy (smart grid, utility infrastructure, efficiency programs), health care insurance reform support, nursing training (community colleges in cooperation with SEIU) environmental clean up priorities (Puget Sound, Hanford, parks) and much more. Securing these dollars is about more than money, it’s also about our willingness to embrace bold reforms.
My workplan this past year has been driven by an effort to introduce more discipline into the $1.2 billion a year that we spend on technology in state government. We have far too little strategic management, accountability or oversight over technology spending, and I’m working to help turn that ship.
Specifically, I’ve been locked in a battle against what I believe is technically misguided spending on a $300 million data center blocks from the Capitol building. I also have worked behind the scenes to reduce cut to higher education, basic safety net housing and food programs, natural resources, workforce development, foster care and much more.
I have been aggressively pushing the state Department of Transportation to improve their project management, financial oversight and accountability systems as they prepare for construction of the tunnel. Still, your 36th delegation of Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and I continue to share serious concerns about tunnel access and traffic flow for Magnolia and Ballard residents.
On the legislative front, here is a look at some of the bills I will be introducing and pushing for in 2010.
This year I’m sponsoring a bill to reinforce the policy that initiative and referendum petitions are public record. Open government and full public disclosure are part of the heart, soul and
DNA of our state since the progressive era of the 1880s despite Tim Eyman’s argument to the contrary. This question may be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court soon but we have a public responsibility to act decisively here at home.
I am also lead House sponsor of a bill to make text messaging and failing to use a headset when talking on a cellular phone in the car a primary offense, as it is in most other states. Teenagers will be prohibited from using a mobile phone while driving altogether.
In addition, I am working extremely hard with House and Senate leadership to find new methods and models to fund the University of Washington, community colleges and the rest of our higher education institutions.
Other legislation that I’ll support include efforts to reduce the adverse impact of stormwater runoff, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, authority for King County to have more taxing flexibility for local needs and much more.
As we enter a new year and a new decade, I am excited about the possibilities of a rejuvenated, more vibrant, open and healthy relationship between Seattle, King County and the state. With Mike McGinn and Dow Constantine new to office, and a sense of resolve in Olympia to help us climb out of this Great Recession, we can together do all those things we cannot do alone.
Your partner in service,
Carlyle will also be hosting conversations over coffee this coming Saturday January, 9th. Here is the information on time and place for each neighborhood:
(Carlyle is a sponsor of Next Door Media.)