Opinion

Another legislative session, more missed opportunities | 45th Legislative District Candidate's Column

Matt Isenhower - Contributed photo
Matt Isenhower
— image credit: Contributed photo

If the state Legislature were graded on its performance this year, it would have received an “incomplete.” This year’s legislative session in Olympia ended with so few results that one newspaper proclaimed it the “Do-Little Legislature.” When it came to our schools, easing traffic congestion, or protecting our rights and safety, State Senate leadership chose partisan unity over the leadership and independence required to serve our families and businesses.

Missed opportunity No. 1: Fully funding education

Days before the Legislature convened, the State Supreme Court described this legislative session as “an opportunity to take a significant step forward” toward meeting the court’s mandate to fully fund education. “The need for significant action could not be more apparent,” it wrote.

Instead of taking the court’s directive seriously, the Legislature passed just $58 million in additional education spending — about 1 percent of the amount estimated to be needed by 2017 — and continued to ignore voter-approved initiatives to provide for more competitive teacher pay and to reduce class sizes. There are common-sense ways to increase sustainable school funding that doesn’t raise taxes on middle class families, but the Senate chose to keep massive tax loopholes for out-of-state companies instead. Investing in our children’s education, not corporate tax loopholes, guarantees us the best return on our investment, and it’s something I intend to do if I’m elected in November to represent the 45th Legislative District as a state senator.

Additionally, for the first time in 18 years, the Legislature did not pass a construction budget. Despite winning broad bipartisan support in the House, the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus could not muster a single vote for the package. As a result, the state is attempting to fund instruction for all-day kindergarten without providing resources to increase classroom space and missed the opportunity to create 2,500 jobs.

Missed opportunity No. 2: Passing a transportation package

Every day, Eastside families see the results of the Senate’s failure to prioritize transportation when we sit in traffic jams and ride on overcrowded buses. This congestion costs Washington, the most trade dependent state in the country, money in lost time and productivity. One place where we see the immediate effects of the Senate’s inaction is SR-520. Lack of planning for its completion puts Eastside families at real risk of having to pay for a “Bridge to Nowhere.”  When the state spends taxpayers’ hard-earned money, it needs to do it right and be fiscally responsible. By failing to properly fund transportation — including transit and local roads — elected officials in Olympia aren’t living up to their end of the deal.

Missed opportunity No. 3: Protecting health and families

There were many common-sense bills that the Senate majority blocked out of sheer partisanship. These were bills that many in our district support, like protecting a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices, and reforms to ban the use of harmful toxic chemicals in household products. These past four years, instead of creating policy that works for Eastside families, our elected officials have simply created more gridlock with fewer results.

Hardworking families on the Eastside and throughout Washington state deserve better. We need leaders with a sense of urgency to address our problems, and that’s why I firmly believe that we need a new voice representing us in the State Senate.

Matt Isenhower is a U.S. Navy Veteran, MBA, dad and community volunteer running for State Senate in the 45th Legislative District as a Democrat.

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