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By Dave Paul 

Serious progress on serious issues this session

 


I’m happy to report the Legislature finished the 2023 session with a balanced budget – and excellent transportation and construction budgets that will create jobs in the 10th district and throughout our state.

Affordability

The price of everything has gone up – especially housing. I know how hard this is on family budgets. It’s also tough on our economy, making the workforce shortage worse when jobs go unfilled because people can’t find housing within commuting distance.

This session, the Legislature made big investments in affordable housing in the state’s operating and construction budgets. We also passed major reforms – many with strong bipartisan support – to help address the housing crisis.

Faster permits (Senate Bill 5290) – Consolidates and improves the local permitting process, which has caused long delays in housing construction in some communities.

Middle housing (House Bill 1110) – Housing today tends to focus on single-family homes or apartments. Our grandparents enjoyed far greater variety of housing such as townhouses, cottage courts and four-plexes, which is partly why housing was more affordable. HB 1110 is an important reform that will help many across our region and state.

Using existing buildings for housing (House Bill 1042) – We’ve seen a big shift in retail shopping and that has freed up a lot of infrastructure that could help with housing. Existing commercial buildings are already financed and are connected to services. This law removes barriers to create housing using these structures.

Mother-in-law houses (House Bill 1337) – This is a proven solution to create affordable housing and give homeowners an easy way to bring in more family or additional income.

Education

The new state budget includes a $2.2 billion increase in funding for public schools, with resources for local schools to hire more counselors, nurses and social workers. There’s also a significant $417 million increase in special education funding, something that’s especially needed in our community.

To address the workforce shortage, colleges and universities received a $382 million increase, with $35 million to expand dual credit programs and $13 million to expand the successful Washington College Grant program.

Students and families also got a boost. I wrote House Bill 1316 to make college education more affordable by allowing high school students to enroll in tuition-free college courses through the Running Start Summer Program.

Healthcare

This session brought good news for healthcare in the budgets and on the policy front.

To tackle addiction and mental health, there’s $1.1 billion in the operating budget for behavioral health services and significant funding in the construction budget, including $133.1 million for local facilities that provide crisis diversion, secure detox and adolescent services.

The operating budget has $1.8 billion for long-term care and services for those with developmental disabilities and $1 billion for public health and healthcare – including better reimbursement rates for healthcare workers, pediatricians and primary care doctors.

New laws passed by the House and Senate cap the cost of insulin to $35 a month (Senate Bill 5729), require health coverage for hearing aids and instruments (House Bill 1222) and implement the 988 crisis line and suicide prevention system (House Bill 1134).

Public safety

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community and the new state budget supports our justice system and improves safety.

Our local law enforcement agencies are facing significant challenges with hiring new officers. I’m pleased that the Legislature has invested $27 million toward better training and certification for law enforcement, including a new Criminal Justice Training Academy program at Skagit Valley College. This will allow local recruits to become officers without having to travel to south King County for training.

The budget also invests $21 million for therapeutic courts, $12 million to expand firearm violence prevention and $5 million to reform how our state prisons operate.

Local projects

The state construction budget improves the quality of life and creates jobs here in the 10th district. Highlights include:

· $2.1 million to complete the Mount Vernon Library Commons.

· $350,000 for improvements to the Lincoln Theatre.

· $1.53 million for La Conner School District school modernization.

· $3.84 million for the Milltown Island Estuary Restoration Project to improve salmon habitat.

It’s great to be back home, where I can chat with community members, neighbors and friends. A special thanks to all who took the time to attend one of my town halls. It’s been a pleasure listening to your stories and ideas. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or suggestions.

It’s an honor to serve as your representative.

 

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