2013 Session: Issues, intrigue, optimism & systems
As I begin my third term as your state representative, I’ve been reflecting upon the inevitable maturation of my perspective about public issues and politics since first assuming office in 2009.
My view of the inside game has changed considerably on many levels. I have come to appreciate, more than ever, at a visceral, intellectual and political level that the public’s engagement and ownership of the hard work of real and lasting “systems” change is the central driver of successful progress. There is no inside game without an outside game. The Democratic Party, Republican Party and the institution of government itself cannot breathe without the forceful introduction of oxygen from the public.
As we approach the systems work of seeing the linkages of public policy, we need to focus more on outcomes and results than inputs and process. Easy to say but amazingly tough to convince the interests within government to accomplish. Really tough. When government acts and thinks like a monopoly, trouble follows. Healthy competition is not really about contracting or inside Olympia policy, it is about empowering the people who engage in the hard work of service to our state. We also need to empower our state employees to make more mistakes, not less, to question decisions not blindly follow them, to stay on the cutting edge of their categories not fall behind on thought leadership. There is dignity and honor in public service, but it must be earned everyday to build the respect of the people who pay the bill. Labels rarely help.
As the 2013 Legislative Session formally starts, my gut check is that it’s not as distressing as the political-insider-nervousness seems to imply. In fact, I continue to be inspired by the opportunity of the Legislature to rise to the occasion and move our state forward.
A handful of issues are front and center.
Our first obligation is to design a responsible 2013-2015 biennial budget. The $32.5 billion spending plan is complex not only because we have the Inslee Administration finding its way and a divided Senate but because there is a backlog of other issues influencing the budget process. Essentially the nuance of the political interplay between the operating, transportation, capital budgets along with McCleary funding, gun safety regulation, Affordable Care Act implementation and other issues are difficult to consider in isolation from one another.
The second vital deliverable, a plan for the McCleary lawsuit, is even less clear at this stage. Many of us are committed to making meaningful progress that upholds the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling. I say “spirit” not as a backtrack from real resources but as a reflection of the need to include early learning and higher education in a broader strategy–a systems approach.
There remains an undercurrent of concern in Olympia–one that I share–regarding the prospect of a heavy lift for tax reform to support McCleary that does not directly link those resources with measurable outcomes.
Specifically, my magic wand goals would be: 1) to be in the top five states in the nation of kindergardeners ‘ready for school’ (the ROI for early learning is off the chart in terms of value); 2) to be in the top five states in the nation in 3rd graders reading at grade level (evidence-based proof as a critical measurement of success); 3) to be among the top five states in the nation in high school graduation (our current ranking of 32nd in the nation is beyond humiliating). A key aspect of this plan, in my view, would be to lead with all day kindergarden in terms of funding from Olympia and then measure an approach to empowering our 295 school districts to meet those goals through more targeted flexibility not less. To me that means measuring outcomes and results not input and process.
In my new role as chair of the Finance Committee, I’ve quickly come to appreciate that tax reform is a short, medium and long term element of our state’s broader work plan. I will outline my approach to these systems issues in the coming weeks. Regardless of the details, a systems approach is the only path forward because of the interconnectedness of our economy. Here are some thoughts, with more to come soon.
This past weekend I stood and marched with thousands of engaged citizens–and a contingent of NRA members taping our event–to call for real action on gun safety. While the complexities of the issue are well known in communities across this country, the opportunity in our state for a thoughtful approach to legislation begins now. The moral imperative is now. The political momentum is now. We need an incremental strategy that brings people along and unites our state. We must take a step forward this year.
Many other issues are joining the agenda and need attention. I will outline a more detailed approach to my 2013 agenda soon. In the meantime, please share your thoughts.
I welcome your emails to email@example.com, comments here on my blog, on Facebook or follow me on twitter at @reuvencarlyle.
It is not possible to pack up my car and drive to Olympia without reflecting upon the blessings of our state and the amazing opportunity to serve as a citizen legislator.
Representative democracy is imperfect, infuriating and seemingly easy to manipulate with the force of money. It is riddled with inconsistencies. But it’s also amazing, beautiful, awesome and courageous.
Your partner in service,