Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you are having a great summer! There's no time better to enjoy the sunshine. In my case, in between my legislative duties, I've been taking in the outdoors with several 10-mile hikes around the area to prepare for a guided climb to the top of Mt. St. Helens later next month.
I've maintained a very busy interim because legislative business doesn't end when the session adjourns. Here are a few examples of the past three weeks:
- I joined Sen. Ann Rivers and Reps. Brandon Vick, Paul Harris and Monica Stonier yesterday at Peace Health Southwest Washington Medical Center for 90 minutes of straight talk about the state of health care in our region. Ann Wheelock, CEO of Columbia United Providers and Joe Kortum, President and CEO at Peace Health updated us on important issues. They discussed the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion with its effects on our local doctors, the exodus of valuable health care jobs to Portland from Clark County, the good news that Washington universities are turning out more new primary-care physicians than most other western states, and the high cost of treating uninsured patients in our emergency rooms.
- In July, I participated in a Legislative Review Forum sponsored by our local business groups. I also had an opportunity to have dinner with Dennis Kampe, retiring director of the Clark County Skills Center. It was an honor to participate in discussions about the future of our state's Career and Technical Education program. This discussion renewed my commitment to fully fund these programs so we can help all our students become successful in life.
- I attended an informal meeting with Dave Ripp, executive director for the Port of Camas-Washougal and received an update on the port's efforts to revitalize a former lumber mill in Washougal to bring this waterfront property back into productive use. I applaud other efforts by port officials to leverage state and local dollars to develop the 120-acre Steigerwald Commerce Center, which will benefit our region with increased jobs and economic activity.
- I also had the honor to meet former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint at a recent Freedom Foundation event in Seattle. The next day, I was back in Vancouver to participate in a press conference sponsored by National Federation of Independent Business on how to improve export capabilities at Washington ports.
- Earlier this month, I was asked to participate in a meeting with Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, and other interested legislators regarding a teacher study being conducted by Central Washington University. Read more about this below.
- This week, Sen. Ann Rivers and I spent a few hours touring Larch Corrections Center. It was a valuable use of time to meet dedicated Washington State Department of Corrections staff, learn about their program, and see the inner workings of this minimum security facility in our corner of the state.
- I also participated in an important roundtable discussion with Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and other community leaders involved in elder abuse in conjunction with the Elder Justice Center in Clark County. Protecting our most vulnerable citizens is a top priority for me. If you believe someone you know is being abused by a family member or a caregiver, please call 1-800-END-HARM.
- I wrote an opinion-editorial for the Camas-Washougal Post-Record that sets the record straight on my activities throughout the 2013 session and corrects the mistaken assumption that young people have no interest in their government. You can read that article from my Web site here or online at the Post-Record here.
I've provided a few more details below of other activities and issues with which I am involved during this interim, including job creation, education, environment and lower taxes. As always, I invite your comments, questions and input. Please respond to my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, I maintain a district office at 415 N.E. Cedar Street, Suite A, in Camas. The telephone number is (360) 210-4117.
Pike forms “Business Kitchen Cabinet” to create better business climate for Washington
As many as 13 business leaders throughout our local communities have volunteered to join my informal “Business Kitchen Cabinet” for discussions about how to create jobs and a robust state economy. I formed the group as a way to identify issues affecting business and commerce, and to find solutions I can take back to the Legislature to improve Southwest Washington's business climate.
The expertise among this group is broad and diverse, ranging from those who sell cars, houses, hardware and cabinets, to those in construction, trucking, metal fabrication and paper processing. These are the folks who are dealing every day with Washington's excessive and burdensome regulations. They are the job creators who, in spite of the challenges thrown at them by state government, work to build Washington's economy so that our families have food at the table, clothes on their backs, roofs over their heads, and can enjoy quality lives.
The challenge we have as a state is to not only get government out of the way so these businesses can grow and prosper, but to create a climate that attracts and welcomes other businesses to Washington so that more jobs can be created.
The cabinet will hold its first meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 4 at my district office in Camas. A second meeting is scheduled for Oct. 30, also from 10 a.m. to noon, again at the district office. I welcome their ideas and yours about how we can improve the state's regulatory climate and get Washington working again.
I am honored to have received a 100 percent voting record congratulatory letter (see at right) from the Washington Retail Association (WRA). The association represents more than 2,800 retail storefronts across Washington.
When voting for or against legislation that would affect our state's economy, I always ask myself, “Will this create or reduce jobs?” I want to make sure we foster the entrepreneurial spirit in our state and keep the doors open for retailers in Washington who employ thousands of people. That's why I voted against elimination of the non-resident sales tax exemption and against expansion of the state's business and occupation tax that would have hurt employers across Washington.
We must remember it is the private sector that creates wealth. Government consumes wealth. A smaller, more efficient government and lower taxes will open opportunities for private sector businesses to be successful and create more wealth in our state, which is a win-win for all. I will continue to seek out these opportunities for a better Washington.
Why I don't support an income tax
Recently, I received an e-mail from a citizen who said he thinks “Washington state (should) completely replace its current tax system with a moderately progressive income tax.” He believes the state needs more of your tax money because it is “going deeper and deeper into debt.”
While I always appreciate hearing from constituents, I disagree with a number of his arguments for an income tax.
First, let's be very clear about this. Washington state is not Washington, D.C. We're not going into debt. In fact, Washington state has over $2 billion more in incoming revenue now than the previous fiscal cycle.
During the end of June, the Legislature passed a balanced two-year state operating budget of $33.4 billion. And we increased funding for K¬12 education by more than $1 billion, including funding all-day kindergarten programs throughout the state. Even with this additional money, members of the other party in Olympia were seeking business and occupation tax increases and other tax hikes of more than a billion dollars. They wanted to spend MORE at the expense of private-sector jobs. Let's remember, Washington has $2 BILLION MORE in this budget cycle.
Our problem is not one of a lack of revenue. Instead, we have a spending problem! Proponents of an income tax talk about the difficult financial affairs of the state, saying government needs more money. Rarely do they talk about the difficulty of the financial state of our families across Washington who would have to bear the extra burden of an income tax, on top of the other taxes they pay. It will be extremely difficult for me to embrace any system that extracts more money from Washington citizens to feed an ever-increasing state government.
In a few days (Aug. 23), I am approaching my one-year anniversary as a state representative. My impression is many government bureaucrats and politicians have a never-ending appetite for more tax dollars. Look what that paradigm did for the city of Detroit. For me, the solution lies in less government, lower taxes and aggressive regulatory reform. I believe we should allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money so they may invest in their businesses and start new ones.
If we are serious about fostering a healthy business climate and creating a robust economy in Washington state, we must change the way we function. By unleashing our entrepreneurial spirit, which will create thousands more taxpayers and increase revenue to the state, we will be able to fund a reformed education system.
Voters have repeatedly rejected an income tax in Washington. Why? Because they know it will only be taking more of their money to feed government's insatiable appetite for revenue – but it will not solve problems in state government.
Teacher study seeks to gain a better understanding of their work, daily challenges
We have some extraordinary teachers across the state who work hard to provide for the education of our children. Yet, many of our legislators, myself included, have much to learn about the day-to-day activities in the classroom, how teachers spend their time, and the daily challenges they face. If we have a better understanding in the Legislature, we might be able to provide better support for our teachers. That's why the Legislature authorized Central Washington University (CWU) to conduct a teacher study through a proviso in the state operating budget measure, Senate Bill 5034, during the 2013 legislative session.
Under Section 609 (1), $25,000 is appropriated for the CWU College of Education to “conduct a study identifying the duties encompassed in a state-funded teacher's typical work day.”
As a member of the House Education Committee, I was honored to be invited to participate in an Aug. 7 meeting in Olympia with Rep. John McCoy, Rep. Monica Stonier, Rep. Mark Hargrove and Rep. Susan Fagan. We were briefed about the procedures, random-selection process and timeline for this important teacher study.
Specifically, the study will provide a percentage estimate of a teacher's day spent on teaching-related duties and the percentage spent on duties not directly related to teaching. More than 5,000 full-time public school teachers out of 56,000 will be asked to participate.
Level I participants will be asked to complete three single-day on-line surveys during the school year.
Level II of the study asks 40 Level I teachers to complete a log of professional activities for one randomly assigned week each month. Level II volunteer teachers are provided with a Microsoft Surface RT tablet and a pre-designed time log which will be on permanent loan.
Lastly, Level III of the study asks 30 teachers to participate in interviews conducted by project staff and consisting of questions based on the findings from Level I and Level II.
Later this month, CWU will send out an initial e-mail request to educators. If you are a teacher and you receive the e-mail invitation to participate in this important survey, please say “yes.”
Coal export talks – Mark your calendar for Oct. 9
The Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and officials from Cowlitz County are working together to create an environmental impact statement (EIS) as it relates to the Millennium Bulk Terminal coal export proposal. Between Aug. 16 and Nov. 18, the agencies will be “scoping” the content of the EIS. This means they will be determining the environmental impacts and alternatives that need to be evaluated to include as content in the EIS.
The scoping process provides an opportunity for public input and involvement. Five meetings have been scheduled throughout the state to take public input, including the following two in Southwest Washington:
- Sept. 17 – 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., Cowlitz Expo Center – Longview
- Oct. 9 – 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., Clark County Fairgrounds – Ridgefield
In addition, the agencies have created a Web site to provide information on the environmental review process: www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov.
This is a critical issue for jobs in Southwest Washington. I strongly encourage you to get involved and have a voice in the process!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"