During the 2012 campaign I supported I-502, the marijuana initiative, as did a vast majority of constituents in the 36th Legislative District. It was not a difficult position to take given a widely held belief, evidenced by the vote tally, that it is time to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in a responsible manner.
As chair of the Finance Committee charged with oversight of tax policy, I have been studying the fiscal implications of the initiative’s tax model in more depth. While I remain unequivocally, 110% committed to the spirit of the initiative, and believe it can be successful, I now believe the letter of the law in how I-502′s tax formula and rates are designed is disconcertingly flawed. Given that the Liquor Control Board (LCB) is aggressively moving forward toward implementing the initiative in the tight time frame required, Washington may be faced with a historic failure of taxation with international implications for drug policy.
Rep. Christopher Hurst, chair of the Government Accountability & Oversight Committee and lead on the implementation of the initiative for the House of Representatives, has advised caution in proceeding too aggressively without objectively assessing the regulatory and policy implications more thoroughly. We all seek to ensure state government does, in fact, responsibly design a regulatory and tax scheme that captures the promise of revenues from the legalization of marijuana. His counsel is not only warranted, in my view, it should be heeded.
Last year the Office of Financial Management (OFM) produced a formal fiscal analysis of I-502 when the initiative claimed a spot on the 2012 ballot. The state agency estimated that revenue from a structured taxation formula would reach $434 million by June 30, 2015. Given that no taxation scheme exists in the U.S. or abroad it’s hard to take OFM’s analysis to the bank, and it’s even more difficult to assign much criticism to attempts to predict at the time how the numbers would pan out.
As a frame of reference, state taxes in Washington from cigarettes in 2011 reached $432 million. The LCB and Department of Revenue have decades of experience in this market and established tax rules, regulations and procedures for tackling black markets and capturing the revenues from this product.
A central concern is that the initiative, generally seen as well written with thoughtful policy analysis and research behind the work, is still crafted with a wide range of complex policy objectives in mind that may have competing implications. For example, while collecting taxes is clearly a primary objective, an obvious secondary objective is to prevent large, out-of-state corporate interests from dominating the market. The annual application and license fees are ridiculously low and invite a robust secondary market. Simply, the tactical boundaries established in the initiative to achieve many of the secondary goals are, in my view, easy to outfox if the financial interests make it worthwhile. And they do.
Given Colorado’s experience with medical marijuana (reflected in dramatic oversupply and falling prices), and our own evolving thinking about how to integrate the approach to medical marijuana in a post I-502 environment, we should recognize that I-502′s fixed taxation levels make predictions of revenues wildly uncertain.
Setting tax rates in the initiative is unwise and inflexible. We should reconsider this approach and allow the LCB, in partnership with the state Department of Revenue, to have the flexibility to adjust tax rates in a more real-time fashion for the first few years in order to prevent under or overpricing the newly available product. Comments at various citizen meetings have loudly complained that the rates are too high and too low to prevent or respond to black markets. We don’t know yet. But we can be assured that without flexibility we are unlikely to adjust rapidly to vital market dynamics.
How we tax marijuana also has implications for who gets into the market. Tribes, which play a major role in cigarette policy, are prohibited under federal law, as I understand it, from participating in this market since marijuana remains a controlled substance. One assumes that is likely to be called into question.
Today, as the Liquor Control Board charges forwards in developing the rules of how marijuana regulation and taxation will be implemented under the strict guidelines of I-502, it’s difficult in my view to shake a growing sense that we are on a collision course for a failure to capture the revenue value of marijuana. At the same time that voters authorized the LCB to establish rules to implement I-502, they rescinded the LCB’s authority to manage the end-to-end liquor business, making it more essential than ever that legislators engage in this process before we ‘go live.’
It is now the job of the Legislature to ensure Washington designs a well structured regulatory and tax policy for marijuana. Of course we didn’t get the assignment until the people gave us a much needed push forward. The message was fortunately received loud and clear, but now we should do our part and take the time to construct the operational, technical and financial issues with a more sophisticated integration with our existing systems.
The initiative process worked. It pushed our state forward. It challenged the status quo and reaffirmed the powerful role of citizens as leaders and lawmakers. The Seattle Times Editorial Board, The Stranger and other media outlets certainly led the way to provide cover for politicians, but leaving the logistical and operational design of the entire system to media outlets, proponents, activists or others abdicates the Legislature’s long-term responsibility to integrate the taxation of marijuana into our liquor, cigarettes and related products that have public policy implications.
I suggest we pass legislation during the 2013 Legislative Session–a bill that would rightly require a 2/3 majority under our state constitution to adjust initiatives within the first two years of passage–to postpone the implementation time frame for up to one year. This would give the LCB, legislators and stakeholders sufficient time to create a system that is well regulated, sufficiently taxed and economically efficient and based solely on the broad public interest.
In this case, given the profound international implications to marijuana taxation, the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law and we should double down to get it right.
A perfect balance and partnership between direct and representative democracy–citizens and legislators–is exactly how it’s supposed to work.
Your partner in service,
In 2011 I sponsored the most sweeping reform of higher education finance in a generation. In exchange for a commitment by the universities to focus on outcomes around student access, affordability and quality, the Legislature granted universities local tuition setting authority.
The bill was a heavy lift necessitated in part by the state’s systematic disinvestment in higher education over the previous two decades. On a positive note it brought to the surface the failed policy of treating, funding and regulating our state’s six universities in virtually the exact same fashion despite their wide ranging differences. It was a shift away from one-size-fits-all to a policy of differentiation to recognize the unique roles and qualities of each of our six public universities. I’m proud of the bill and the work of the team of dedicated legislators (led by Higher Education Committee Chair Larry Seaquist), trustees and regents, students, administrators and others who made it happen.
Included in the bill was authorization to experiment with differential tuition internally within a university among programs. I believe flexibility to innovate and experiment is critical to change, and I believe in the systemic value of experimentation made possible by differential tuition. There is today a wide spread model of cross subsidization between various programs (for example liberal arts degrees subsidize higher cost STEM degrees). The bill was in large part striving to bring those types of subsidies to the surface rather than allow them to continue to be known only to the administrators working on internal accounting.
What I did not fully appreciate at the time of sponsoring this provision of the bill was the substantial risks that differential tuition poses to the stability of the GET program.
For two years the Legislature has studied the GET program’s solvency, stability and long-term prospects to ensure we are responsibly managing this important program. The recommendation of the working group is to phase the program out either through outright termination or a slow modification.
I strongly disagree with the desire to close the program because I don’t accept the premise that it is a crisis of debt.
Admittedly the popular college savings program where 120,000 accounts see the purchase of credits at today’s prices to guarantee funds for tuition and mandatory fees was a smoking hot deal for families as tuitions rose above the rate of inflation and greater than traditional stock market investments. The jump in tuition was driven by cuts from Olympia. Today it is less of an obvious deal for families since huge jumps in tuition have slowed but it is valuable as an insurance policy and a tool to continue investing over time.
In my view, GET as an insurance policy for families has value in and of itself.
It also allows a middle class family to communicate about college. Imagine a family discussion at the dinner table: “Honey, we have saved a little bit of money each month since you were little to help pay for college. We’re proud of you and now it’s time to talk about college.”
In full disclosure, there are some legislators who also oppose GET because it is seen as being accessed by families of above average financial means and is therefore seen as a subsidy of the ‘wrong’ kids. I reject this view based on the fact that there are not large numbers of families that purchase the entire amount up front. And I reject it philosophically.
Realistically the troubling financial risk to taxpayers to GET is, in fact, not the overall debt level (since there’s no chance all students will redeem their GET credits at same time) but rather the uncertainty and lack of stability associated with the prospect of differential tuition. It’s time for me to acknowledge that the policy I have championed is not a realistic tool given the implications for GET. Therefore, I propose a deal: Keep GET in exchange for rescinding differential tuition authority.
Washington’s GET program is ‘generous’ in that it guarantees that tuition and mandatory fees will be paid in tomorrow’s dollars. Is it such a crime to have a ‘generous’ deal that benefits 120,000 kids from the middle class so long as responsible steps are taken to minimize risks to taxpayers? Let’s make modest, responsible changes to GET–primarily eliminating the financial dangers associated with differential tuition–before taking the radical step of eliminating such a valuable college savings program.
And the political pressure is actually (perhaps counter intuitively) the only meaningful financial pressure on the Legislature to fully fund higher education after years of disinvestment. It’s not a secret: We can stop the tuition increases both by working more closely with universities AND by reinvesting in higher education in the operating budget.
The financial risks to taxpayers brought about by GET can be easily and carefully managed. The two key actions–eliminating differential tuition and funding higher education–are entirely within the Legislature’s grasp.
Your partner in service,
DISCLOSURE: My family purchased GET credits for our children in 2009.
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,
Washington State ranks 28th in the nation in combined local and state tax obligation. At 9.3% of income, according to the generally conservative but well respected Tax Foundation, it is easy to make a policy case that this is not a wildly unreasonable burden. In 1977, Washington ranked 31st in the nation with a 9.6% of income level of taxation. A never-ending, parallel political question, of course, is whether citizens are receiving value for their precious tax dollar.
Tackling these policy and political questions with honesty, transparency, rigor and data-driven objectivity is my new gig as chair of the House Finance Committee.
As we prepare for the 2013 Legislative Session that begins January 14, we find ourselves at a transformative intersection where tough public policy challenges push us beyond the normal chatter of politics.
The state Supreme Court is bearing down on the Legislature to meet the constitutional responsibility to ‘fully fund’ the paramount duty of public education, while their parallel silence about the I-1053 supermajority case continues; Gov.-elect Jay Inslee is assembling a new team operating under a construct of a campaign promise to veto any ‘new’ taxes; business leaders and many Republicans are clamoring for legislative passage of a lucrative new transportation funding package; the Senate is tightly bound by partisan constraints; and the biennial operating budget faces a projected $900 million to $1.2 billion deficit.
Here are some of my hopes and expectations for the year ahead. First, I am immensely pleased that my colleagues recognize the value of an independent Finance Committee. I am, of course, profoundly honored and humbled to have been selected for the chair role. I didn’t expect it and I was candidly caught off guard by the invitation.
Regardless of politics, I believe most legislators share a view that it is vital to elevate the dialogue in our state about the larger economic and financial trends facing state government.
Do we have a structural deficit or a short-term glitch in this recession? Do we pay too much in taxes or too little? Do we spend our taxes wisely or foolishly? Can we sustain this level of on-going budget cuts without eviscerating higher education and other treasured services? Our tax burden is at historic lows yet why has the public consistently rejected efforts to increase funding? Are businesses over or under taxed? Is there value in a public dialogue about how taxes flow into and out of state government? Is the state’s normal economic growth sufficient or not to fund public services?
Legitimate questions all.
My primary goal as chair is to bring a rigorous, robust and bold sense of equality of analysis to our spending and taxes.
I want tax policy to be on equal footing as spending not with a preconceived goal of increasing taxes but with a businessman’s eye toward a more fiduciary management of the public’s resources. No business in the country would vigorously analyze spending but allow a quick wink at the revenue side of the equation. It’s irresponsible and we need to do better. There is no malice or failure in this picture only a sense of delayed maintenance that has crept into the Legislature’s workplan around taxes.
Today in Olympia, legislators understandably focus substantial time and energy on spending programs. A small program (such as Passport to College Promise Scholarship Program that sends foster youth to college) might receive multi-year studies, analysis and independent reviews before being reauthorized. It is required to prove that there is a measurable return on investment for taxpayers.
In assuming this position, I argue that major tax policy (whether structural issues such as gross receipts tax on business or modest like a data center tax exemption) receives a fraction of the time and energy that even a modest spending program receives. Whether it is because of supermajority voting rules of I-1053 and I-1185 to close a tax exemption or raise taxes, or because of political fear of even honestly discussing taxes, it is unsustainable for the Legislature to figuratively ignore one side of the ledger.
The House of Representatives recreated the Finance Committee because Washington, as a $65 billion, 100,000-person enterprise cannot responsibly and effectively manage the public’s resources without ensuring a more open and transparent public review of tax policy on every level.
The New York Times’ bold series about state and local tax exemptions is in many ways a symbolic model of transparency. Whether right or wrong on various details, it elevated the national dialogue in dramatic fashion. State and local government reporters need to help continue this public dialogue.
For example, the state has created 640 tax exemptions, credits and preferential rates. We have done so over the years in large part because our structure is economically inefficient by most independent reviews, making sales tax or B&O tax carve-outs more important than usual. I have argued that we should periodically allow those exemptions to expire and force a ROI analysis of whether they are achieving their objectives. I intend to work closely with the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, the Citizen’s Commission on Tax Preferences, state auditor, governor and many others to continue to tackle important ‘systems questions’ about these exemptions and how they relate to our larger tax framework and economic clusters.
My goal is not to close tax exemptions. My goal is to close tax exemptions that don’t have quality, justified and solid data to show lawmakers, reporters, advocates and even companies themselves that there is a ROI for taxpayers. My goal in this area is to rejuvenate legislative oversight, policy analysis and action with regard to fundamental policy questions of whether they work or not for taxpayers.
Republicans rightly insist that the mere existence of a government spending program is no longer justification for its continued existence. The same philosophical consistency must be true for tax exemptions and tax policy. Some will criticize me for introducing ‘uncertainty’ into our tax discussions, a euphemism for fear that a treasured tax exemption will need to prove it works. Others will criticize me for not immediately articulating a need for new revenues to fill the budget gap as well as fully fund the McCleary decision. Anyone in this role should expect no less than arrows from both sides.
Moreover, 41% of taxes collected in our state go to local and county governments and the pressure is on to allow even greater flexibility. It is a constitutional responsibility of the Legislature to grant taxing authority to cities, counties and special purpose taxing districts, yet we rarely review such authority once granted. Are cities managing this authority effectively or not? Are special purpose taxing districts, as evidenced by the Wenatchee default last year, receiving sufficient oversight?
We have taken some small steps in this area but as pressure grows by King County and Pierce County and other jurisdictions for more flexibility, I would like us to look even more closely at what works and what does not.
As I said in a recent news story:
“It is philosophically inconsistent to be in favor of a rigorous, objective data-driven review of spending but to not be in favor of that same independent examination of our tax policy. And my central goal is to bring that same level of philosophical consistency to both sides of the equation.”
The Seattle Times has engaged in a multi-year effort to educate the public about what they consider spending inefficiencies and burdensome tax levels. The Stranger counter attacks in an effort to highlight what they consider inconsistencies between calls for increased spending on education and a strong anti-tax sentiment. These blog-fueled skirmishes are not merely about campaigns, personalities and public debates, they are visceral to the public’s view of our state’s future.
I intend to freely reach out to a wide range of our state’s best think tanks, researchers, special interests and advocates for high quality data and policy assistance in this journey. Washington Policy Center, Budget and Policy Center, Sightline, Economic Opportunity Institute and many other state and national thought leaders will be called upon to help our committee understand the data and make the business case for and against a variety of big policy ideas.
My goal is to lead a cooperative, fair, relationship-based committee that brings the best data into the open and helps everyone–Democrat and Republican, legislator and activist, special interest, media and the general public–engage in a courageously honest battle of ideas about how tax policy impacts our budget, our future and our quality of life.
Finally, I intend to challenge the public to engage with us in elevating the dialogue. I welcome your thoughts, insight and counsel.
Your partner in service,
The political vernacular of Washington–widely seen as a consistently leaning
Democratic state– includes a term of almost universal endearment that has come to symbolize political moderation, courageous leadership and an almost mythical admiration and respect for the dignity of public service. The term is “Dan Evans Republican.”
The independent expenditures in favor of Rob McKenna’s campaign for governor worked tirelessly to transfer the mantel from our state’s only three term governor to the attorney general who was widely viewed as the most seasoned Republican candidate in decades. Democrats, too, are fain to deny striving to associate with Governor Evans. In my 2008 campaign, especially given the new Top Two primary system, I sought out his endorsement with unrelenting fervor, and remain deeply honored to be among the first Democrats he ever formally endorsed in such a race.
In my view, when Dan Evans formally endorsed Referendum 74 days before this year’s historic election, the admiration of so many citizens, notably those who would not have been familiar with his era, was cemented along with Warren Magnuson and Scoop Jackson as our state’s ultimate political heroes.
In 1964, Democrats swept all statewide offices save the governor’s mansion, where civil engineer and part-time state House of Representatives minority leader Dan Evans ascended.
Like most in government, I have long admired Governor Evans. Until recently, however, my knowledge of his service was mostly gleemed from political warhorse stories.
State Rep. Mary Ellen McCaffree was first sworn into office in 1963 as a Republican legislator representing the 32nd Legislative District in Seattle’s Wallingford area. Last year she co-authored, along with Anne McNamee Corbett, a book titled “Politics of the Possible.” The enticing story of Washington state politics in the 1960s, which I recently found on and borrowed from the private bookshelf of the late Sen. Scott White, is a must-read not only for legislators today but for those who are fascinated by the inside game of our government.
Rep. McCaffree sheds light into the inside nuance of the political team that started with Dan Evans, Slade Gorton and Joel Pritchard. Outside of the personalities, styles and idiosyncrasies of the numerous players in her story of serving as a legislator during the upheaval of those times, there is a powerful lesson in why Dan Evans carries such moral authority to this day.
One of Dan Evans’ first major challenges–a turning point in setting the foundation of his service–was to tackle the rise of the John Birch Society within the Republican Party. He choose to engage directly, to question their core values and to push back against efforts to consume the Republican Party with extreme philosophical rage.
From the outset, his formal legislative agenda included the importance of instituting population-based redistricting, a (flat rate) income tax, affirmative action and civil rights legislation, building services for children with developmental disabilities, progressive environmental initiatives, creation of the community and technical college system, creation of Evergreen State College and so much more.
Reading an inside account of the nuance of the legislative packages and efforts advocated by Governor Evans is humbling today as so many feel constricted by 7×24/365 media, on-going campaigns and demands of ideological purity.
I assume I wear slightly tinted rose colored glasses about Evans’ service. But in today’s time of cynicism, partisan resentfulness and influence of campaign cash, I’m more than pleased to enjoy a little political fantasy about a leader who made big ideas came alive. Perhaps I enjoyed the book so much because it validated nearly all of my existing biases and perceptions of the dignity of service from Governor Evans.
In my view, what made Evans’ service so extraordinary was his simple willingness to break with ideological orthodoxy and fixed perceptions. I treasure that conviction and courage, belief and dedication. If that one quality alone could be broadly instilled in our politics today, we could engage on a different level.
Regardless of the clarity of my lens, I am not shy in believing that Governor Evans was then and is to this day a courageous progressive in the mold of the noble ideal of those who do not accept the status quo. Fiscally responsible, socially and environmentally progressive and passionately dedicated to good government that is responsive to and connected to the people it serves.
I do not know if the Republican Party of today has room for a Dan Evans Republican. I don’t know if Dan Evans would even be a Republican in active party politics today. I do not know if the Republican Party or the Democratic Party of today has the courage, will or even desire to break with the orthodoxy of ideology. But I do know that there was a time when big ideas inspired a public service that looks different than the money-driven politics unleashed by Citizens United and a mad-dash for campaign cash that seems almost unstoppable.
There is no doubt in my own mind that the reason Dan Evans Republican carries such moral authority years after he left public office is that real people living real lives hunger for the politics of big thinking and bold ideas.
Your partner in service,
The beginning of a new Administration in Olympia or Washington, D.C. is naturally a time of new beginnings and transition. Every governor, including Governor-elect Jay Inslee, begins her or his term with a genuine commitment to entice new blood to engage in public service. One important logistical challenge faced by Inslee is how to open the door of public service to people who previously have not seen it as a viable option.
Olympia enjoys iconic status as our state capital, and has worn the title well for most of our state’s history. A major management and leadership challenge today, however, is how to secure the benefits of the full 6.8 million Washingtonians as a public resource for public service without remaining effectively tied to living in Olympia.
The question today is: How can we entice some of our best and brightest from the private sector, non profits and philanthropy, academia and other industries to accept the mantle of public service? It’s partially about salary and benefits, career growth, professional development and job satisfaction. But it’s also about family priorities and flexibility, commute times and quality of life.
Our state employees are overwhelmingly talented, engaged and highly professional folks. I continue to be impressed by the passion and drive so many exhibit to serve the public with responsible approaches to important policies. I learn something new from each and every state employee I meet. Not all live and work in Olympia but many of course do. And we face a retirement eligibility boom in terms of age and loss of institutional knowledge and skills.
As a large enterprise, we in state government should accept that Olympia is a good town but we are not achieving our state’s potential by limiting those who would serve in top positions within state government to those who are willing and able to live near Olympia. It is extremely difficult to serve as a senior or key mid level executive in state government without spending virtually everyday in Olympia.
I am not suggesting we move the capital, I am suggesting we open move our mindset away from yesterday toward a more modern approach of intellectual capital and talent. We need to expand the size of our talent pool to compete with top notch organizations in the state for talent and not self select away so many people for the wrong reasons.
I encourage our new governor to make Washington a top state government to truly embrace telecommuting and remote location office usage. With one well designed executive order he could relax the rules about agency leadership and management and others working in offices in Seattle, Bellevue and elsewhere so that we can create an expectation around performance and not merely input of office time.
There are regional offices from Everett to Seattle to Bellevue and Tacoma the there would be only minor incremental costs of office space and other facilities. Yet the notion that it’s socially and culturally acceptable to work in a regional office as a senior administrator is still an uncomfortable proposition. We should change that. Without making the leadership of Olympia nervous, we could responsibly and reasonably find ways to expand the talent pool for executives and key mid level managers and others in state government simply by allowing people to work more effectively out of district or regional offices. The manager still has responsibility and accountability for her or his team, they just have a wider arena in which to do it.
I encourage Gov.-elect Inslee to double down on efforts to find a reasonable middle ground where we can maintain the core integrity of our state capital in Olympia without creating an expectation that managers must sit in their Olympia offices and desks within sight of the State Capitol Building 7x24x365.
We are the home of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and thousands of amazingly creative start up companies that are by their nature global enterprises. In my own startup software company headquartered in Seattle our VP of Product Development lives in Atlanta, our VP of Sales lives in Sacramento, our CEO lives in Austin.
Let’s modernize our thinking and our approach to allow executive agency leaders to improve their quality of life by improving their own options and that of employees to live, work and play throughout our state. Washington is a 100,000 person, $65 billion enterprise. How we manage our people, how we encourage personal and professional growth, how we recruit and retain the best and brightest to public service matters.
Our talent pool it right in front of us.
Your partner in service,
Winston Churchill’s comment that Democracy is the worst form of government other than every other system attempted is reborn this week, as the election descends upon us and we are reminded of the beauty and chaos of majority rule.
As I scan the names on the ballot on my table, and reflect upon my own name listed near the bottom of the same sheet as Barack Obama’s, I recall the moment four years ago when I took my first step into elected office. On election day four years ago I knew that I would of course quickly recover emotionally if I was defeated, but I could hardly contain my anxiety of not wanting to disappoint my children with a loss. In fact it was only a minute or so into my victory on election night that I found myself thinking of my opponents family, whom I knew was feeling the opposite of my own joy.
In four years I have matured, made many mistakes, achieved a great deal, seen many successes and pondered the challenges of our day at the state and federal levels. I have read both impressive and pathetic policy reports, learned the nuance of many issues from policy experts and questioned why the power of the status quo seems unrivaled almost regardless of who wins or loses. I have thought a lot about representative democracy and its relationship with direct democracy. I have come to see the awesome power of money in politics up close and personal. I have met lobbyists whose arrogance and abuse of their role is stunning in scope, as well as those who treasure their long-standing noble relationships and will sacrifice a bill for the truth.
I remain deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve in public office if only for a short time. I wish more people could experience the thrill and weight of service, and the sense of public obligation to do good that overrides most ideological considerations.
In four years I have come to realize that there is an operational component to service (ie making the trains run on time) as well as an intangible element to the need for communal purpose, hope, direction and a belief in the possibilities of the future. People want to believe that their representatives give them voice on matters big and small, consequential and trivial. Most do not expect a perfect match nor an exact fit, but they expect conviction of purpose and clarity and alignment of goals.
Yet I find myself stunned at the unforgiving rage of so many directed at President Obama who inherited foreign and domestic disequilibrium of historic proportions. I believe that President Obama has helped to lift up this nation, to bring out the best in people, to see the possibilities of unity and common resolve. I believe he has been an extraordinary, effective and dynamic president and I’m honored to see my name on the same ballot in service to our nation.
A nation needs a leader who calls us to our higher nature. President Obama, like the great idealist Robert Kennedy, appeals to our better angels of care for our neighbors and our society. He has, in my view, served our nation with quiet dignity and noble integrity.
I have worked for four years to tackle major ‘systems’ issues from economics and job growth to education (early learning, K-12 and higher education), foster youth, open textbooks, e-government, tax reform and technology. There are those who have disappointed that I have not followed a predictable ideological path of Democratic orthodoxy on every issue. There are those who find that view refreshingly independent. I can only engage in this service, and ask my family to make the sacrifices needed for public service, by balancing the three C’s of service: conscience, constituents and caucus. My goal is to place a premium on the first two and give them added weight in any policy decision.
Serving our community and state has been a joyous, stressful, amazing, humorous, engaging and invigorating experience. It’s been wonderful even when it’s been awful.
On Tuesday, my deepest hope is that President Obama will be re-elected, Referendum 74 will pass and many other critical races impacting our state and nation. While I am likely to win given our district’s party makeup, regardless of how much longer I serve I don’t believe I will ever become numb to the expected nervous energy and natural anxiety about being on a ballot. I’m so honored to have this opportunity on behalf of the people of our community and our state.
Thank you for being a part of my service and civic engagement by visiting this blog, a small effort at transparency, on occasion.
In 2008 my friend Scott White, (may his memory be a blessing), a candidate for the House in the 46th District, and I spoke privately nearly every day about our respective races. We cared about each others race almost as much as our own. Scott went on to serve in the Senate before his untimely passing one year ago.
Serving in Olympia has been a genuine honor. I want to thank the people of the 36th for this wonderful honor and opportunity and my wife Wendy and our children for making it possible. On election night this year, regardless of the outcome in the races I care most about, I will express my thanks to the people for maintaining the dignity of representative democracy throughout our nation’s history and for an opportunity to play a small part in it. And I will raise a toast to the memory of my dear friend Scott whom I treasured like a brother.
Your partner in service,