As we head into a new legislative session and new year, Washington needs to chart a new course to create stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger Washington.
That new direction must begin by focusing on “kitchen table” issues; the things we talk about with our friends and family around the kitchen table. The increased cost of food, cost to heat your home, and cost of fuel. The lack of childcare. The rise in crime, homelessness, and drug addiction. And the quality of public education.
The Governor and legislative majority support a capital gains income tax, wealth tax, payroll tax, and increased taxes and fees on the services and goods that disproportionately impact lower- and middle-income families, and those on fixed incomes, like seniors. Continued tax increases and reckless spending are not solutions.
On affordability, we could reduce the sales tax, which disproportionately hurts lower and fixed-income Washingtonians; provide property tax relief and build more homes so that young families can own a piece of the American dream; expand the working families tax credit to provide for greater economic security; and invest in educational, early learning, and childcare opportunities.
On safety, every one of us in these past few years has either been a victim of a crime or knows someone who has. From property to violent crimes, many communities are not safe or don’t feel safe.
Washington now has the fewest law enforcement personnel per capita. The need for more highly trained officers on the street is essential. Decade-long policies have left Washington last in the nation.
The 2021 anti-police bills had disastrous consequences. While the Legislature addressed some issues, critical work remains – including restoring the ability of law enforcement to pursue suspects in their vehicles; the need to recruit, train, and retain officers; and provide law enforcement the necessary tools to keep us safe.
We can turn our state around by prioritizing victims over criminals; stop normalizing the use and distribution of fentanyl and harmful drugs; preserving the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, their homes, and businesses; and, ensure the judicial system has the ability – and support – to deliver justice by stopping repeat criminals from terrorizing our neighborhoods.
For years, the governor has supported spending billions on housing programs while housing accessibility and affordability worsened. In fact, Washington has the fewest housing units per household of any state in the country; again last in the nation.
Many young people can’t afford to live where they grew up, and many seniors are struggling to stay in their homes.
There is a better way than the status quo. Let’s roll back burdensome regulations that are preventing new housing. The layering of costs and regulations are eliminating your opportunities to build a home, build stability, and build a future. Let’s invest in infrastructure to create housing. Let’s work with local governments to open new areas to housing and increase density.
The perpetuation of poverty and homelessness in Washington is nothing less than a humanitarian crisis. Too many are living in inhumane, makeshift encampments in public spaces. Too many policies are normalizing the use and circulation of deadly drugs on our streets and in our schools. Too many children and adults are suffering from untreated mental health challenges.
Let’s stop measuring success by the amount of money spent, but instead by the number of people we help.
Lastly, we need to truly invest in education from early learning to through graduation. I routinely witness the needs as a classroom mentor and volunteer. I see it as a father of two students. Unfortunately, prolonged school closures, initiated by the Governor, had devastating, long-lasting consequences. Those decisions hurt low-income students and students of color disproportionately.
Test scores continue to decline significantly. These setbacks magnified a struggling education system that has already failed many students, limited learning opportunities, and trapped them in a cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Now we should come together and increase our investment in a quality education system that prepares students to flourish in the modern economy; recognizes that every student is unique – finds their passion, cultivate it, and prepares them for a successful career they love.
It’s time to strengthen accountability and recognize parents as necessary and integral partners. Education does not start or finish in the classroom. Education begins and ends in the home. Schools must engage parents as active participants, and we must provide them with resources and real choices.
There are those in power who – year after year – sell us a future based on fear. They would have you believe the status quo is the best we can hope for because, for many, that is all we have known after a decade of the same people promising change that never comes.
But I do not believe that.
I believe – by charting a new course based on real solutions – Washington’s best years are ahead of us, and that we have it within our power to leave this beautiful state better off for our children and grandchildren.
You can help us achieve this by becoming more involved as business owners and citizens. Join us for our monthly District 20 Legislative Updates via Zoom for Chamber members, learn more about the legislative process and ways to get involved, and be ready to voice your support or opposition about bills that affect you and your business. For helpful resources visit www.RepresentativePeterAbbarno.com to learn more about legislation, policies, and ways to be involved.