This year’s Joint-Chamber Olympia Fly-in brought more than 100 business, civic, and education leaders from the greater-Spokane region to Olympia to advocate on behalf of our region.
The fly-in kicked off with the delegation hearing from David Schumacher, Director of the Office of Financial Management at the Association of Washington Business. Schumacher shared insights regarding Governor Inslee’s proposed 2018 Supplemental Operating Budget. The same presentation was given just last week to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and the House Appropriations Committee. Supplemental budget priorities include:
Schumacher emphasized that a four-year outlook with the budget forces the legislature to think long term. If it were not for the McCleary decision, mental health would be the legislature’s primary priority.
The delegation then moved to the Capitol for its Education Issue Session. As a former educator in Spokane, Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia) highlighted the importance of examining legislation by how it affects meeting student needs on the ground. One of her priorities for this session is making necessary adjustment and fixes to last year’s HB 2242, which addressed school funding formulas.
Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) focused on the importance of career and technical education (CTE), and agreed with Gov. Inslee’s recent point in the State of the State address, that the trades and technical fields is the most beneficial path for many students. Regarding the McCleary decision, he expressed concerns over a co-equal branch of government continuing to exert control over another.
Sen. Liias (D-Lynnwood) focused on the importance of statewide solutions to education. And echoed Sen. Padden, that a four-year college path is not the answer for all students, but that life and career experience should be translated into credits and credentials.
To round out the Education Session, Rep. McCaslin (R-Spokane Valley) was able to join the delegation as he was between committee meetings. Rep. McCaslin’s primary concerns lie in unfunded mandates on schools and the unintended consequences of legislation. He too felt that a focus on CTE programing was needed, including a bill he is working on to bring CTE programs into middle schools.
The meetings rolled right into the Water & Environment Issue Session. Rep. Maycumber (R-Republic) spoke of the importance of high standards when talking about the environment and the economy – and that the environment should be a separate issue from revenue. She expressed concerns over environmental regulations being added to the existing burdens on business.
Rep. Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle) championed HB 2338, which would reduce the greenhouse gas emission associated with transportation fuels. He thought the bill would be voted out of committee next week and emphasize that the bill is technology neutral.
Regarding climate change legislation, Sen. Erickson (R-Ferndale) posed the question, “What if Washington State does nothing?” Pointing out that with seven million people in Washington our actions have little impact compared to the actions of India and China with billion plus populations. Additionally, low cost energy is one Washington’s competitive advantages, and to tax it would not only make our manufacturers less competitive globally, but would also limit our economic development efforts.
Finally, Sen. Baumgartner (R-Spokane) joined the group and congratulated Eastern Washington for continuing to “punch above its weight,” with recent victories in transportation and WSU’s medical school. However, he emphasized the importance of educating legislators in the summer and fall regarding priorities so they can be prepared for the session. He also pointed out that advocacy groups need to not only focus on spending asks, but also regulatory issues.