For the first time since the 2014 session, the Legislature was able to finish its work on time. Below is a brief summary of the budgets we passed, as well as an update on my bills.
Coming into this year's 60-day legislative session, an early priority was passing the 2017-19 capital budget for state construction projects. Thankfully, we were able to get that done in the first two weeks, which freed up the $25 million in capital budget funding we secured for projects in Issaquah, Maple Valley, and the Snoqualmie Valley. You can learn more about several of these projects in this video update I recorded in January. I'm especially proud the budget includes funds for Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, and Summit Park and the Veteran's Memorial in Maple Valley.
We also passed the 2018 supplemental transportation budget. Funds from the budget will be allocated to plan for the widening of State Route 18 between Issaquah Hobart Road to Raging River, congestion management on SR 18 between SR 167 and SR 410, as well as for other key projects, including the I-90/SR 18 interchange.
For some background, the Connecting Washington transportation package approved by the Legislature in 2015 provided $150 million for the I-90/SR 18 interchange project. The design of the project wasn't even scheduled to begin until 2023, but thanks to hard, bipartisan work, we were able to move up the timeline by six years. The design is taking place right now.
Finally, we adopted the 2018 supplemental operating budget. While I had hoped we could provide property tax relief this year, the budget allocates $390 million for relief next year. It also continues to prioritize spending on K-12 education, while providing $166 million in additional funding for behavioral health services. It's not a perfect budget, and I was disappointed in the process in the run-up to its passage, but it invests in our communities without relying on any new tax increases — including a capital gains income tax or a carbon tax. For those reasons, I cast a yes vote.
Three of my bills signed into law
I'm happy to report three of my bills were recently signed into law by the governor.
House Bill 2948 will raise the population threshold for when a city assumes responsibility for maintaining state routes. Under current law, the Washington State Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining state routes that cross through cities with fewer than 25,000 residents. My bill will gradually raise that threshold to 35,000 residents, which is critical for fast-growing cities like Maple Valley. Not only are we going to be saving cities money, but we were able to draft the bill in such a way that it will have no fiscal impact on the state. That's a win-win.
House Bill 2256 will provide more flexibility to the foster care pre-service training process by making all training materials available online. While some components will still be required to be completed in person, this policy change will make it easier for people to complete their training and get licensed. That's important because we continue to face a foster parent shortage.
House Bill 2446 will help physical therapists better meet patients' needs by expanding the number of assistive personnel (physical therapy assistants, physical therapy aides, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, and massage therapists) they are allowed to supervise from two to three. Providing them with the option of hiring additional assistive personnel will help them meet the demand for their services and ensure patients receive the care they need.
I'm grateful for the bipartisan collaboration that resulted in broad support for each of these measures. They may not be the flashiest bills, but they will absolutely make a positive difference both locally and around the state. That's what I'm most concerned about as your state representative.
Although session is now over, please know I'm here to serve you year-round. If there's anything you need, or if you simply want to sit down and chat with me about legislative issues, I will always make time for you. Please feel free to call or email me anytime. My contact information is below.
It is an honor to serve you.