23 09, 2020

Statement from Sen. Christine Rolfes on state revenue forecast

September 23rd, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – State Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, released this statement following today’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meeting:

“Washington’s diverse economy is showing signs of resilience. While we will still face many challenges ahead, there are some extremely positive signals for our state’s financial picture in this forecast and it represents an enormous step in shoring up our state’s projected budget deficit.

“Thanks to action by lawmakers to hold $3 billion in reserves and difficult decisions made earlier this year by the governor to veto legislation and reduce spending, we have a stronger foundation than most states upon which to rebuild. As we continue to support the critical work to address the pandemic, this forecast will help guide us as we prepare to write the state’s 2021-23 biennial budget.

“We know that many households and businesses in our state are struggling and anxious about their own economic futures. That’s why it’s more important than ever to begin to identify bipartisan solutions at the state level. It’s also why it’s critical for Congress to act responsibly and provide timely financial support for state and local governments.

“Our state’s economic challenges will require creative, thoughtful decisions that keep our overarching goals of opportunity, prosperity and equity in mind as we put all options on the table to deliver a sustained recovery for everyone in Washington state.”

18 06, 2020

Sen. Saldaña on DACA decision: “We are home.”

June 18th, 2020|News Release|

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) on Thursday issued the statement below on the US Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA):

“This news comes as a tremendous relief for the thousands of DACA recipients living in Washington. From the time the Trump Administration began its racist, xenophobic campaign against immigrant communities across this nation, people who know no other home but this one, have lived in fear.

“In our Washington we have taken strides to ensure immigrants have access to education, health care and jobs. This includes our most recent legislation to include immigration status as a protected class under our Washington Law Against Discrimination.

“This is more important than ever, because while we are happy with today’s decision, the Court’s decision indicates that the Administration still has the authority to end DACA.

“We will continue to fight for immigrant communities in our state, but until those in the other Washington truly take on meaningful, comprehensive immigration policy reform, this broken system will continue to punish and harm our immigrant neighbors, many whom the same Trump Administration has deemed essential.

“There is much work to be done, but this is a victory for our country, and is worth celebrating.  I thank the thousands of undocumented young people and their families for the valiance in standing up for what is right.

“We are home.”

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17 06, 2020

Statement from Sen. Christine Rolfes on state revenue forecast

June 17th, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, released this statement following today’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meeting:

“Today’s forecast gives us a better understanding of the enormous fiscal challenges facing our state in the months to come. We will continue our work to address the immediate impacts of the pandemic and prepare to make smart, informed budget decisions that will protect households from the continued impacts of a sustained downturn.

“While we remain hopeful that our federal partners will act responsibly and support states with a relief package, it will ultimately be up to us to find a budget solution that works in all corners of our state. Now more than ever, we must forge bipartisan solutions to keep our communities whole and build opportunity, prosperity and equity across the state.

“As our state faces many difficult financial decisions in the coming months, the health and safety of all Washingtonians is paramount. Our shared goal is to strategically align our state for a strong economic recovery, and we have a solid foundation on which to rebuild, thanks in part to a healthy rainy day fund.

“The challenge before us will require everybody’s participation and constructive ideas. The hard work and ingenuity of Washington’s workforce built the nation’s strongest economy over the last decade, and in the months to come I’m confident we will rebuild our economy upon the strong foundation we have forged together.”

 

17 06, 2020

Sen. Billig statement on release of June Economic Revenue Forecast

June 17th, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) released the statement below following today’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meeting:

“Since session concluded in March, we have not stopped our work to ensure all working people, businesses and those disproportionately impacted by both the economic and health impacts of COVID-19 receive the support they need to survive this crisis in the short-term and thrive in the long-term.

“Today’s revenue forecast gives us a better understanding of the size of the economic problem and reaffirms that we have a daunting task ahead. As we continue preparation for an eventual special session and the 2021 regular session, we must take a balanced approach that includes budget savings and the use of resources like the budget stabilization account and, potentially, new revenue.

“Gov. Inslee’s decision today to cancel raises and begin furloughs for many state employees was difficult, but under these circumstances, it was the correct call to make.

“The last economic downturn resulted in deep cuts to education, behavioral health, the environment, our safety net and other critical programs, which ended up costing taxpayers more in the long run. We cannot repeat those mistakes. This problem requires creative, thoughtful decisions that keep our long-term goals of opportunity, prosperity and equity in mind as put all options on the table to deliver a sustained recovery for everyone in Washington state.”

16 06, 2020

Bipartisan COVID-19 recovery committee holds its first meeting

June 16th, 2020|News Release|

Working people and small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, the Senate Special Committee on Economic Recovery heard from a variety of experts about ways to help people and businesses recover.

The bipartisan committee focused its first meeting on a wide variety of topics, including unemployment, regional challenges, challenges faced by small businesses, short and long-term recovery strategies, supply chain issues, and much, much more.

“Solving this crisis will require us to be thoughtful, creative and resist the temptation to retreat to our ideological corners. I was encouraged by the collaborative nature of this first meeting,” said Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) chair of the committee. “Washingtonians are suffering. Small businesses are shuttered. It’s our job to find a way back, and we can only do that together.”

The seven member committee heard from prominent economists, including Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics at Chicago University and former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. Economist Betsey Stevenson, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan and former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor also under Obama. Annaliese Vance-Sherman, Labor Economist at the state Employment Security Department and Debra Glassman, Principal Lecturer of Finance and Business Economics at the University of Washington’s Dept of Finance and Business Economics also weighed in.

Frockt said that he felt there were three main takeaways from the inaugural meeting of the recovery committee.

“One, we have to get the virus under control,” he said. “A full recovery simply cannot happen while COVID-19 continues to make its way through our state. Two, we must address access to childcare. People cannot return to work if they do not have reliable, consistent childcare. And three, we must help small businesses and their workforce bounce back, particularly small businesses and workers in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

The committee is tentatively scheduled to hold its next meeting on July 21.

13 05, 2020

Senate Majority Leader welcomes June Robinson to the Senate

May 13th, 2020|News Release|

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig issued the statement below following the Snohomish County Council unanimously appointing June Robinson this afternoon to replace Sen. John McCoy as the Senator from the 38th Legislative District. McCoy retired last month:

“June Robinson has dedicated her life to making the lives of others better.

“Throughout her career she has committed herself to the improvement of public health for diverse populations both here in Washington and in other parts of the world. Her public health background, budget experience and expertise in affordable housing are especially important now to the legislature and the entire state.

“The Senate is fortunate to welcome a public servant of June Robinson’s caliber and experience.”

6 05, 2020

Senate announces formation of bipartisan COVID-19 long-term recovery committee

May 6th, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) on Wednesday announced the formation of a bipartisan Special Committee on Economic Recovery in the Washington State Senate to address the state’s long-term economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee will hold its first meeting in June and is tasked with making recommendations on COVID-19 recovery legislation in advance of the 2021 legislative session, or before that if lawmakers are called back into session this year.

“It’s hard to imagine a single aspect of day-to-day life in Washington that will not be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and we must respond swiftly to its devastating impacts on workers, businesses and households with solutions that will foster a robust and sustained recovery,” Billig said. “This bipartisan committee will lay the groundwork and help lead our state in addressing the economic impacts of the virus through effective and innovative solutions to this unprecedented challenge.”

Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) will serve as the committee’s chair. Republican Senator Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) will serve as vice chair. In total, the seven-member committee will be comprised of four Democrats and three Republicans. Democratic senators will include Sens. Manka Dhingra, Christine Rolfes and Rebecca Saldaña. In addition to Becker, Sen. Tim Sheldon and a yet-to-be-determined Republican will represent the Senate GOP.

“The purpose of this select committee is to look deeply at the ways in which the pandemic has structurally changed our state and regional economies, and to make recommendations on how we can come out stronger on the other side for workers and the businesses that employ them,” Frockt said. “The goal is to have this committee work together, without partisanship, in order to drive innovative, forward-looking ideas that can help the people in every corner of this state recover and prosper.”

The committee will hold work sessions in the coming months to hear from experts in a variety of fields, look at what other states are doing to recover from the outbreak and identify innovative ways to rejuvenate Washington’s economy and communities throughout the state.

The Senate’s Facilities and Operations Committee voted today to officially form the committee.

16 04, 2020

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) on the retirement of Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip) 

April 16th, 2020|News Release|

“I was saddened to learn of my friend John McCoy’s retirement from the Senate, but his legacy of service to his community, our state and the nation will be felt for generations.

“He served this country with distinction for 20 years as a member of the Air Force. For almost as long, he has represented the people of 38th District in the Legislature, advocating for a healthier environment, more inclusive education, a voice for Native American people and countless other policies to make life better for every Washingtonian.

“Since 2016, he has helped guide the Senate Democratic Caucus as our Caucus Chair, always offering a steady path forward as we regained the majority and took on historic challenges.

“As the only Native American member of the Senate, Sen. McCoy’s perspective and understanding of tribal sovereignty and governments has been instrumental in advancing the policies to support our state’s indigenous communities. His determination to integrate historically accurate tribal history, in a way that celebrates the beauty and the richness of every tribe into school curricula, will continue to give generations of Washington students a more complete education.

“He has led efforts to improve access to dental care in Native communities by sponsoring a landmark dental therapy bill. He worked to tear down barriers to voting, increase broadband access to rural areas and is a relentless champion for clean water.

“For me personally, John McCoy is a mentor. He was the chair of the first committee I ever served on in the legislature and was a teacher and role model for me then and he continues in that role today. I think the world of John McCoy..

“To his wife Jeannie, his daughters, grand-children and great grandchildren – thank you. Thank you for sharing this great man with our state and our country for so many years.

“I wish my friend John McCoy and his family nothing but the best in his well-earned retirement.”

18 03, 2020

Billig: Governor has Legislature’s full support

March 18th, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said the Legislature took steps before adjourning last week to swiftly support coronavirus response efforts by Gov. Jay Inslee, including the release of $200 million in emergency funds appropriated by the Washington State Legislature to help fund the state’s COVID-19 response.

The funds will be used for hospital surge capacity, testing, and other efforts at local health departments. The Legislature also authorized immediate funding that may be used for shelter needs related to COVID-19, which the Department of Commerce is already in the process of distributing to counties and cities.

“Leaders in the Legislature will continue to coordinate with the governor’s staff and our partners in local governments to mitigate both the health emergency and the economic crisis that is unfolding in our state,” Billig said. “I admire the work of the governor and his staff under difficult circumstances, and his important warning for all of us to do our part to stay away from public gatherings and slow the spread of coronavirus. In concert with his efforts, state leaders will continue to take any and all actions we can to protect the people of our state.”

Before the Legislature adjourned last week, lawmakers approved other key measures to protect Washingtonians during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Ensuring people receiving unemployment insurance can continue to do so even if they can’t meet the work search requirement due to quarantine.
  • Supporting businesses that rehire employees who had to go on unemployment insurance because of the coronavirus emergency.
  • Reimbursing nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response.
  • Allowing school employees to maintain health insurance eligibility for the rest of the school year even if they come up short of required work hours because of the coronavirus state of emergency.
  • Giving flexibility to the State Board of Education to allow high school seniors to graduate this year if they were on track before the emergency declaration.

“Public health is our first priority, with mitigating the economic impacts from this outbreak not far behind,” Billig said. “I know Washingtonians will remain resilient during this difficult time, while at the state level we’ll continue to do our part to deliver all the resources necessary to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe.”

Primary state response websites:

Washington State’s official COVID-19 site: www.coronavirus.wa.gov
Washington State Department of Health: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus
Washington Employment Security Department: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

 

12 03, 2020

Sen. Billig statement on the conclusion of the 2020 session

March 12th, 2020|News Release|

“I am so proud of the work we’ve done on behalf of the people of this state, but all of our thoughts right now are with the people and communities across Washington impacted by the coronavirus and with the public health professionals who are working around the clock to stop its spread.

“The budget we passed today addresses the needs we saw coming into session as well as those that unfolded in recent weeks. The steps we have taken this year, and really for the past three years, leaves our state in a strong position to combat this outbreak.

“We finished our work on time for the third year in a row – marking only the third time in the last 79 years the Legislature has accomplished that.

“This budget invests heavily in public health, including $200 million in emergency funding to the State Department of Health and local public health organizations so the people working to keep us safe and healthy have the resources they need. We also invested in accessible health care, behavioral health, affordable housing, education, early learning, the environment and other areas important to the people of this state. This budget leaves more than $3.5 billion in reserves – an extraordinarily important figure in these unprecedented and unpredictable times.

“We will continue to do everything in our power as legislators to invest in the future of our state and keep Washingtonians safe during this crisis.”