With challenges ahead, join me in seeking common-sense solutions

My first year in the state Legislature won’t be an easy one. With a 6 billion dollar shortfall, no direction for a Snohomish County college, and roads in our county waiting for improvements, we’ll need some creative ideas and even more perseverance to get through hard times.

We’ve all heard about this 6 billion dollar shortfall or deficit, but how much is that really? It’s more than 15 percent of our state’s forecasted revenue for the upcoming two-year budget, and it’s $2 billion more than all of the state employees’ salaries and benefits. It’s also more than what was spent on higher education.

Some say this shortfall was caused by the national economy, and while this definitely affected our state’s economy, we’re still expected to bring in five percent more revenue in the coming biennium (2009-11) than we did in this current biennium (2007-09). So how is it we’re still nearly six billion dollars short? I would argue that it’s due to overspending in Olympia. But the “I told you so line” isn’t productive, and now we have to look forward and figure out how to balance the state’s budget.

The governor’s budget released a few weeks ago is a start. It does not increase taxes, which is absolutely crucial to helping working families keep their hard earned money. We should go back and look at where we’ve increased spending and created new programs to decide where to reduce the budget. The governor’s proposal would end some new programs that were promised in the last couple of years. It’s unfortunate that these promises had to be broken, when they probably shouldn’t have been made in the first place.

One thing I don’t agree with in the governor’s proposal is the reduction of funds to keep classroom sizes small. Education is the paramount duty of the state, according to the state constitution. If we really treated it that way we wouldn’t have to make these reductions. I support a proposal to fund education first in the Legislature, and then move to funding everything else. The most unfortunate effect of not fully funding education is that the costs still get passed on to you, the taxpayers, in the form of levies and, therefore, your property taxes.

Aside from the budget, I will be working on a proposal in the House to take new steps to bring a college to Snohomish County. I’ve heard over and over again there’s a need and want for a college here. I spoke with Mayor Kendall, of Marysville, and he also wants to see a college in our area. And a few years ago, a bipartisan task force recognized there aren’t enough spots in colleges for graduating high schoolers in Snohomish County.

My goal is to think outside the box, giving more options and control to local citizens and local government. While I’m working through the final details, I would welcome your input and suggestions. I know how important it is for our working students and families to have closer access to higher education. Specifically, I think a polytechnic school would best serve the interests of our community and businesses looking for new talent.

There will be a lot of issues the Legislature faces. I’m ready and anxious to get started on what matters most to our state and to you. But I can’t do it on my own — I need your input, your ideas, and your stories to help me do a better job of representing you and making government work for you.

I will always be open to discuss ideas with you. Please contact me through my Olympia office at 360-786-7892 or toll free 800-562-6000. You can also e-mail me at hope.mike@leg.wa.gov or visit my Web site at www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/hope. Or feel free to travel to Olympia to meet with me in person.

Thank you for the opportunity and honor to represent you in Olympia.

Rep. Mike Hope was sworn into office Dec. 17, 2008. He is a Republican from Lake Stevens. When the Legislature convenes January 12, Hope will serve on three committees: Education, Education Appropriations, and Capital Budget.

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