Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week I was sworn in to office to begin serving my second term representing you in the 42nd District.
Even though this was the second time I have had the opportunity to be part of the opening and swearing-in ceremonies, it remains a very humbling experience to stand on the floor of the Washington State House of Representatives and take the oath of office to represent the great people of Whatcom County. It is an understatement to say I feel honored and privileged.
Every odd-numbered year lawmakers must create a new, two-year budget. The focus of this year's budget will be our K-12 education funding obligation, based on the state Supreme Court's McCleary rulings.
It is already setting up to be a tough budget debate. When the governor unveiled his budget proposal in December he proposed $7 billion worth of tax increases over the next two budget cycles. He is proposing new taxes on capital gains, carbon emissions, as well as a 20 percent increase in the state Business and Occupation (B&O) tax, and rolling back tax exemptions on water and refineries. These proposals have already failed to gain the support of the Legislature in recent sessions or have been turned down by the voters, sometimes more than once.
His proposals are surprising given the positive revenue projections last year. In fact, the latest revenue forecast projects the state to have a 6.7 percent increase, or $2.6 billion, in revenue for the upcoming biennium. Most families would be excited to see an increase of almost 7 percent in their income.
It is early in the session, but it gives you an idea of the budget challenges before us.
Two of my three committee assignments have changed from my first term. However, they are very positive changes.
I will continue to serve on the House Higher Education Committee, but now as the assistant ranking Republican. I will be one of the lead voices for the Republican caucus on the committee. I am excited to be serving on this committee as I continue to work on a number of higher education issues – college affordability, degree completion, supplying a strategic and educated workforce for Washington employers, and empowering individuals to reach a level of self-sufficiency in order to achieve personal success. Whatcom County is known for their rich and diverse higher education opportunities and I want to be a strong voice for our institutions and the issues that affect them.
House Page Program
I had the opportunity to sponsor some great pages in the House Page Program in my first term. Legislative pages deliver interoffice mail, attend page school to learn more about the legislative process, and can even take part in the daily flag procession. Every page I have talked to has thoroughly enjoyed their experience.
Pages must be between the ages of 14-16. They must get permission from their parents and school. Pages are also paid $35 a day. For more information on the page program and how to apply, click here or call my Olympia office.
Keep in touch
Traveling our district through my first term, I have had the opportunity to meet with several folks to discuss issues that matter to our region. Keep in mind, you can always contact me with ideas or questions you have about the Legislature, whether we are in session or not. My door is always open. Here are some other ways to stay involved and keep track of what is happening in Olympia:
- Capitol Buzz – A daily electronic news clip service of the House Republicans. Click here to subscribe.
- Check out my Website – www.representativeluannevanwerven.com. From this link, you can check out my newsroom, bills I have sponsored, view the map of the 42nd District or find other information.
- Photos – Access my photo gallery here.
- TVW – Washington state's version of C-Span, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live. You can also watch on your computer, smartphone or tablet: www.tvw.org
- Legislature's Website – You can get bill reports, track legislation, view committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov.
If you are going to be in Olympia please contact my Legislative Assistant Bryan Yon at (360) 786-7980 ahead of time so we can set up a time to visit. It is always nice to see the familiar faces from Whatcom County during the busy session.
Stay tuned for more updates this session. It's an honor to serve you!
Luanne Van Werven