Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Legislative Day in Olympia, with several other Washington newspaper leaders.
The event was held in one of the hearing rooms and several state elected leaders including Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Treasurer Duane Davidson, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and many others spoke about the issues percolating throughout the state capital. Various legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle gave us their take on bills flowing through the different committees and partisan battles. The state Supreme Court — the state’s court of last resort — hosted us in their chambers, discussing various legal issues. The evening concluded at the Governor’s Mansion where Gov. Jay Inslee thanked us for sharing the news with our readers.
The day started at 10 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m. and there was a lot of information being shared during that time.
One of the topics was Senate Bill 6353 — automatic voter registration, which according to the bill’s report, “provides for eligible applicants for enhanced driver’s licenses or identicards who do not decline the option to be automatically registered to vote. Provides for eligible applicants for services at the Health Benefit Exchange (HBE) who do not decline the option to be automatically registered to vote if HBE obtains federal approval. Encourages other agencies which provide public assistance or services to persons with disabilities to offer eligible applicants for services the option to be automatically registered to vote. Requires HBE and other agencies which provide public assistance or services to persons with disabilities to transmit information about prior applicants to election officials, who will automatically register any eligible person who does not decline to vote. Automatically preregisters each child born in Washington after January 1, 2002, to vote, unless the child, parent, or legal guardian declines. Directs a study regarding the feasibility of automatically registering recently naturalized citizens to vote.”
I have concerns about this bill because I don’t believe our current government staffing has the time, money or resources to research each individual prior to offering these benefits to insure they are eligible.
When state Treasurer Davidson spoke about the challenges that we face on an economic level in the state of Washington I was stunned. He said we are in debt to the tune of $21 billion dollars. He mentioned a 25-page document called the Debit Affordable Study which details how the state can reduce the debt (a two-page condensed version can be found at tre.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/DAS-Handout.pdf).
I looked it up and found some interesting facts: “Over the past 20 years, the state of Washington’s outstanding General Obligation (GO) debt portfolio has increased from $6.8 billion to over $19 billion. These funds go towards a variety of projects, such as building schools and hospitals, managing floodplains, preserving state parks, and constructing bridges, tunnels and other capital improvements. In Fiscal Year 2018, the state will spend more than $1.2 billion in debt service payments for its various purpose GO bonds, or 5.77 percent of total general fund state revenues. The state has high levels of debt, ranking sixth highest in the country in debt per capita. Every Washingtonian would have to pay $2,717 in order to fully repay the state’s outstanding debt, well over the national average of $1,006. Despite having high debt levels, the three major rating agencies have all confirmed a strong long-term credit rating for the state, reflecting a robust local economy, good access to liquidity, prudent financial management and relatively well funded pensions.”
These are shocking numbers. I’m hopeful Treasurer Davidson can lead the state in reducing this debt burden.
At the end of the day, at the scrumptious dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Inslee had the room laughing as he answered a question with his thoughts on the topics of President Trump’s administration’s recent actions and reactions — specifically offshore drilling along the Washington Coast and the nationality-based travel ban into the United States.
He gave some comical examples of what he characterized as knee-jerk decisions, the folly of recent reactions and retractions from the Trump administration.
All of our political leaders during Legislative Day told us there are a lot of issues and bills to get through and everyone is working hard with the goal of a March 8 adjourn date. Last year they went several months over that goal. Hopefully a lot can be done between now and then. As Gov. Inslee noted, newspapers provide a vital role in the entire political process that at its essence should be our elected leaders doing the will of the people.
We are proud to be a part of this dance by sharing with our readers the happenings in Olympia to allow you to be better informed.