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Mike Hope speaks out on budget deficits, education financing, legal reform

State Rep. Mike Hope expressed both frustration and optimism about Washington's governance in his interview with The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times.

Setting the tone for much of the rest of the interview, Hope explained how he and other state legislators have worked to try and create positive change in the wake of profound tragedy, citing last year's killing of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton, a Marysville resident, as his first example. Hope, a fellow Seattle Police Officer, introduced a bill to change the state constitution to exempt potential three-strike offenders, such as Brenton's suspected killer, from being able to post bail.

Hope, a Republican, championed House Bill 4220 alongside Democratic state Rep. Chris Hurst. Hope pointed to this partnership, along with the bill's passage by 92-4 in the state House 48-0 in the state Senate, as examples of the bipartisan support behind it. As such, the Citizens for the Lakewood Law Enforcement Memorial Act — which would modify Article I, Section 20 of the Washington State Constitution — will be on every Washington state voter's ballot on Nov. 2 and requires a simple majority to pass.

Noting that the state deficit has grown by about $1 billion a year, to total close to $9 billion by the time the latest legislative session ended, Hope has advocated privatizing not only state liquor sales, but also workers compensation Labor & Industries insurance. He's also pushed to allow state residents to buy health care from across state lines, as well as to break up the state Department of Social and Health Services into smaller county-based agencies, which he believes will provide better access to services, more transparency in the agencies' affairs and ultimately better care.

Hope decried talk of raising taxes to make up for deficit spending. He outlined his view of the state's proper spending priorities as providing quality education, protecting the public and maintaining transportation infrastructure, in that order, with considerations such as acquiring new parks falling far lower on that list.

"We can't even take care of the parks we have now," Hope said. "There's no more money in the capital budget. It'll take us 30 years to pay off, and we're already maxed out. Next year, we're facing an even bigger deficit. I hope there are no natural disasters."

Not only did Hope declare that the state has failed to meet its obligation to the schools, but he also denounced the month-long special session that the state legislature convened to resolve its budgetary issues.

"We're actually worse off because of it," Hope said. "We spent even more of the taxpayers' money to figure out why so much of the taxpayers' money was being wasted. It wasn't effective communication. If we'd wanted to show we were serious about this issue, we would have done it earlier."

Hope has endorsed David Iseminger's education finance plan, which proposes to reserve a portion of annual increases in state revenues for K-12 education reform, as well as to shift the 24 percent levy lid to state collection and to use state bonding to address required capital improvements. The Iseminger plan further proposes to implement reform by funding the neediest students first, and to reform local levies by enabling local participation without statewide disparities.

Hope expects that fiscal conservatives could take advantage of swing districts in this year's political climate, and he hopes that the results of the November election will allow state legislators to reach across the aisle on behalf of common causes.

"I don't believe in just sitting there," Hope said. "If legislators just want to be safe in their seats, they shouldn't be there. We're starting to move in the right direction, but we still need an alternative to the status quo."

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