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Sen. Bailey reflects on legislative session
ARLINGTON — State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-10th District, stopped by the offices of The Arlington Times to share with her constituents the accomplishments of the recently completed session.
“For the past two years, we haven’t had any increases in state tuition,” said Bailey, who chairs the Higher Education Committee. She added that the prior 26 years had seen tuition increases. “This helps families make decisions about college.”
Two education reform bills from this session that Gov. Jay Inslee signed were Senate Bill 5318, which removes the one-year waiting period for veterans and active-duty military to be eligible for resident tuition, and SB 6523, which expands access to state need grants to vets, active-duty military and the children of undocumented immigrants.
“I wanted to make sure we were taking care of our veterans,” said Bailey, whose husband and two sons have all served in the military. “A lot of young people are coming back from serving their country, not knowing what they want to do, and college is a good place for them to get centered. They can convert their vocations into college credits and give themselves better opportunities for the future.”
Bailey likewise cited the advantages of the state’s fully balanced four-year budget, and absence of any new taxes in the biennium.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much pressure it takes off of the budget planning process,” said Bailey, who’s served in the state legislature for 13 years, and for the past 10 has not been in a deficit going into a session. “We’ve worked within the resources we had available, even when we thought we couldn’t.”
As a member of the Health Care and Wellness Committee, Bailey expressed concerns about the “Silver Tsunami” of impending retirees potentially swamping the system.
“We don’t have enough money in Medicaid to cover them all,” said Bailey, who’s just as worried about the impacts of Obamacare. “We’ve got a long way to go before the Affordable Care Acts is fully implemented, and when it is, I don’t know that it’s going to make things better.”
Bailey sees health care becoming more expensive for many people, and while she acknowledged that some will be afforded more access, she asserted that others will not.
“There’s still a lot of unknowns to it,” said Bailey, who’s heard from constituents who fear losing their current insurance. “A lot of people still don’t know what’s in the bill, and a lot of it is going to have to be reformed.”
Bailey specifically objected to the degree of rationing that she anticipates could result from the ACA.
“People want affordable health care and insurance, but I’m not sure this is getting us there,” Bailey said. “When you limit who people can see for care, and when and where they can go, it really changes the whole dynamic of health care, in the larger sense of the relationship between patients and doctors. I see that relationship being jeopardized.”
While the state Legislature is not without its disagreements, Bailey expressed enthusiasm about the bipartisanship of the majority coalition.
“The most exciting thing is that we can agree on our priorities and then focus on accomplishing those,” Bailey said. “At the start of the session, we all signed an agreement stating what we would do, and we did all those things. We collaborated not only across the aisle, but across the rotunda, shifting our emphasis onto jobs and education, and the labels melted away.”
Bailey did regret the lack of action on transportation, and pointed to disagreements over a gas tax.
“Especially if the economy continues to grow at its current rate, we can’t depend on an endless stream of other people’s money,” Bailey said. “We have to find more efficiencies.”
By contrast, Bailey declined to find fault with how the various levels of government responded to the Oso slide, which occurred on March 22, more than a week after the legislative session wrapped up.
“Everyone tried to do the best they could,” Bailey said. “I don’t know what else they could have done.”
Bailey noted how swiftly the governor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard were on the scene, and revealed that she’d struggled to remove herself from the situation.
“I didn’t want to step back,” Bailey said. “Some of those people were from my district. But I knew that, beyond making calls and praying, I had to let the responsible agencies take care of it, and stay out of their way.”
Given the susceptibility of the region to earthquakes and flooding, Bailey encouraged her constituents to carry emergency kits in their cars, including water and blankets.
“If there’s a big enough earthquake in this area, part of Whidbey Island will no longer exist,” Bailey said. “If there’s a tsunami wave, the Naval base could be underwater. We should all be prepared for disasters, so that we can help each other in our time of need.”