Sam on the Issues Facing Our State

ADDRESSING COVID 19

The 800 pound gorilla is obviously the COVID 19 pandemic.  The challenges are many and terribly uncertain.  We know the state faces big hurdles due to lost revenue.  Our biggest job will be to repair the damage without shredding the safety net or balancing the budget on the backs of public employees who are dependent on the state for funds.

BUDGET AND REVENUE

Washington continues to face 21st Century problems with a 19th Century tax structure.  People with low incomes pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy.  Unfortunately, that income gap will grow even wider.  Our sales and property-based tax structure is subject to big dips during downturns.  It is even clearer that we need to fix our tax structure so those who take home millions of dollars pay their fair share.  I support enactment of a capital gains tax and have cosponsored legislation to establish a corporate gains tax.

EDUCATION (EARLY LEARNING AND BEYOND)

The legislature made strides to live up to its obligation to fund basic K-12 education.  The state constitution says, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make provision for ample education of all children living within its borders without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”  Unfortunately, the formula adopted by the legislature is flawed because it depends heavily upon property taxes that generate more money in high income areas and due to a regionalization factor, that gives some districts more money than others.  For instance, the formula provides North Thurston with and extra six percent, Olympia with four percent and Tumwater with zero percent even though the districts serve the same communities. I will continue to work for a better balanced funding system that treats all districts equally.

Early learning is very important.  Research at the University of Washington and elsewhere shows that much of a child’s brain development occurs in the first three years of life.  Support for early learning is a good investment that will help kids and reduce learning problems as they grow older.

We have made great strides in funding higher education.  Now many students will receive tuition-free education for the first two years of college.  We have made great strides to make postsecondary education more affordable. Now we need to fight to maintain these gains.

STATE EMPLOYEES — THE BACKBONE OF OUR GOVERNMENT

I strongly support the right of state employees to belong to a union and to have full collective bargaining rights.  We must provide fair pay and benefits and adequate funding for state retirement systems in order to recruit and retain a talented workforce that can provide quality service to residents of our state.  All retirees also deserve annual cost of living increases to help them keep with inflation.

TRANSPORTATION — IMPROVING HOW WE GET FROM HERE TO THERE

The legislature passed a large transportation package in 2015.  In that time gas tax revenues have declined and our population continues to increase.  (Population has increased from 7.2 million in 2015 to 7.8 million in 2020.) We need to address the future of Interstate 5 between DuPont and Littlerock.  Planning is underway, but funds will be needed to address construction needs.  Issues such as passenger ferry service between Olympia and Seattle, and expanded mass transit are also important.

HEALTHCARE — SUPPORTING AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

If we have learned anything from the current pandemic, it is that healthcare in our nation is a mess and needs to receive massive attention.  We must work the federal government to bring universal health care to our state and nation.  None of us can afford to face another crisis with the existing system.

DEATH PENALTY REPEAL        

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled against capital punishment, Governor Inslee has a long-standing moratorium on use of the death penalty.  The state senate has passed a repeal of the death penalty three years in a row.  I will continue to work for abolishment of the death penalty in Washington State.