At GSI’s recent Annual Legislative Forum and Reception, our Public Policy Council Co-Chair, Tom Reese, presented the 2015 State Legislative Priority Agenda, our state lobbyist, Jim Hedrick, facilitated a thoughtful dialogue among the panelists, and everyone enjoyed the networking opportunities at the reception.
The conversations that took center stage during the forum revolved around education, transportation, and medical education.
The legislators who participated on the panel indicated that education would undoubtedly be a top issue this session due to the McCleary decision and the passage of Initiative 1351, but there were still some clear distinctions in opinion. Senator Baumgartner emphasized the substantial increases in education spending that the legislature has already made and stressed that the issues with our education system cannot be solved solely by funding. Representative Short stated that education should be the first place the state puts additional revenues. Representative Parker pointed to the history of the jurisprudence behind the McCleary decision and that a satisfactory funding level is a moving target. Representative Riccelli indicated his strong support for increased education spending and salary increases for Washington teachers. With an array of possible outcomes ranging from a change to the State Constitution to historic increases in education spending, this will be an issue to watch this spring.
When it was time to discuss medical education in Spokane, the legislators had more in common. All four legislators showed excitement over the increased attention that a Spokane Medical School has garnished across the state, and showed a sharp interest in considering all proposals to grow this educational field. This kind of unified support bodes well for the future of a four-year Medical School in Spokane.
The panelists indicated support for completion of the North Spokane Corridor, but disagreed on the remaining details of a transportation package. Parker emphasized necessary highway maintenance and preservation as well as the need to finish partial projects like the NSC, while Riccelli indicated the need to also fund new projects. Baumgartner stressed reforms for the efficient use of tax dollars to fund WSDOT projects similar to those proposed in the Senate last session. Meanwhile, Short strongly expressed her opposition to the Governor’s Carbon Tax Initiative. With the momentum of proposed transportation packages from last session, all four legislators indicated that a transportation package was likely.
Clearly, we have a community that rallies together to ensure that funding for basic education is covered, that we have the transportation infrastructure needed for businesses to export their products, and that we continue to recruit medical students and retain them to provide the primary care services that are in critical demand in Eastern Washington.
Overall, the 2015 State Legislative Priority Agenda framed the conversation. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check it out here. If you’re interested in getting more involved in advocacy at Greater Spokane Incorporated, then be sure to sign up for our Public Policy Opt-In Newsletter, get involved in our Policy Committees, or consider joining us as we travel to advocate directly in Olympia and Washington DC.